With BookExpo now a thing of the past, following the decision of show organizer Reed Exhibitions to “retire” the event, we dug into the PW archive—which stretches back to 1872 and encompasses some 7,650 issues and more than 661,000 pages—to get a feel for how the show evolved over the years. The first convention took place in 1901, a year after the American Book Association was formed, and featured 748 dues-paying members. The convention did not add a regular trade show until the mid-1940s.

June 1901

New York City

The American Booksellers’ Association’s first convention was held in the Earlington Hotel. ABA president Henry T. Coates of Henry T. Coates & Co. of Philadelphia presided over the meeting. Annual membership dues of $2 was one topic of debate.

June 1950

New York City

The ABA marked the 50th anniversary of the convention at New York’s Astor Hotel. More than 650 booksellers and publishers registered for the event.

June 1960

By the time the convention landed in Chicago in 1960, its exhibits, and attendance, had grown.

Gourmet cook James Beard at the Golden Press booth grilling sausages from a recipe from his forthcoming James Beard’s Treasury of Outdoor Cooking. Tasters of Mr. Beard’s cooking shown here are Elizabeth Steinheimer, Steinheimer’s Books, Tuscon, Ariz. and Mr. and Mrs. John Bro, Children’s Book House, Royal Oak, Mich.

J.G.: The Upright Ape, the hero of a new Lyle Stuart book, handing out a flyer to Lillian F. Couchman of Ed. Schuster & Co., Milwaukee.

Putnam piled up fresh stacks of its leading fall novels and booksellers kept carrying them away in Putnam shopping bags. Chatting at the Putnam booth (from l. to r.): Ray Boyce, Putnam; Robert A. Werner, Gateway Newsstands, Knoxville; Sylvia G. Seligman, G. Fox & Co., Hartford.

JUNE 1970

Washington, D.C
Authors, artists, and the media mixed with publishers at the Shoreham Hotel.

Norman Rockwell was a surprise luncheon guest at the Abrams table.

At a reception before the luncheon were (l. to r.) Stanton Peckham, book critic of the Denver Post; Lem Wells, publicity director of Crowell Collier Macmillan; Pamela Herr, also of CCM; and Madeline Kraner. arts editor of PW.

Speakers at an authors’ luncheon were (l. to r.) James Dickey, promoting Deliverance (Houghton Mifflin); Santha Rama Rau, who wrote The Adventuress (Harper & Row); and James. W. Gardner, author of The Recovery of Confidence (Norton).

June 1980

Attendance was put at nearly 16,500 at the 1980 event, which PW called “subdued.” One source of dissatisfaction—”too few booksellers.”

ABA executive director Royce Smith talks to a convention attendee.

Top-selling NAL authors Stephen King and Erica Jong at a party for Jong’s novel, Fanny.

Las Vegas

More than 24,000 turned out for the first-ever convention in Las Vegas. PW called the show “surprisingly calm” in a setting “that was much better than anticipated.” The big draw of the show? Donald Trump, whose breakfast appearance drew some 3,200 people. PW said the future president’s “attempts to save his financial empire garnered headlines throughout the show.”

The Zebra Books booth was hoping to help launch its Young Astronauts series to skyrocketing sales with its display.

At the African-American Book Display: Roy Spahr, Forest House; Fern Jaffe, Paperbacks Plus and exhibit organizer; and Clara Villarose, Hue-Man Experience.

June 2000


Nearly 30,000 people were in the Windy City “in surprisingly good cheer among members of an industry that many agree will soon change dramatically and in unpredictable way,” PW said.

John Sargent, LMP’s 2000 Publisher of the Year (l.), Kirsty Melville and Phil Woods of Ten Speed Press with Jimmy Bannos, restaurateur and author of 'Heaven on Seven' (c.), Tom Wilson, creator of the Ziggy comic strip (r.).

May 2010

New York City

BEA’s first midweek show, confined to two days, was not a big hit among out-of-towners; the show returned to four days (including three days of exhibits) in 2011.

(top left): To celebrate the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, HarperCollins had a large booth dedicated to the American classic. (bottom left): ABA v-p/secretary Becky Anderson and president Michael Tucker presided over the annual town hall meeting. (far right): City Lights head book buyer Paul Yamazaki holds the plaque honoring the San Francisco institution as PW’s Bookstore of the Year.