In what some are calling a return to normalcy following the Covid-19 pandemic, religion scholars and academic publishers gathered in Denver, Colo. Nov. 19 to 22 for the joint annual meeting between the learned societies the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). Total registrations came in at 7,291—down 22% from 2019’s event, while the number of exhibitors (110) and the booth count (237) nearly matched pre-pandemic numbers.
John Kutsko, president of SBL, says the totals met the organization's budget, and called the meeting “rather huge.” He adds, “It has been an excellent annual meeting, a restart with the appropriate theme Reconnect.”
Alexandra Horn, marketing manager at IVP Academic, says the annual meetings are among her favorite live events to attend each year. The press brought approximately 330 titles to the event for promotion and sales. “As we’ve navigated returning to in-person conferences, we have a new depth of joy and sense of accomplishment in watching authors and attendees, friends and colleagues, engage with our books and our IVP Academic team,” Horn notes. “Being present with attendees and authors this side of the pandemic has been a necessary reminder that good scholarship and academic publishing are incarnational pursuits.”
IVP associate academic editor Rachel Hastings was able to meet with existing IVP authors as well as potential new authors during the meetings. “I anticipate we will see a number of projects that will result from the generative conversations that transpired at AAR/SBL."
In the exhibit hall, professors had a chance to peruse new books for use in the classroom, and buy them at steep discounts. Jeremy Wells, senior marketing director for Baker Academic and Brazos Press, commented on the positive energy among attendees on the show floor. “It was a welcome return to something like normal,” he says. “In many ways it felt like a pre-pandemic SBL/AAR.”
In addition to an upbeat atmosphere, James Ernest, v-p and editor-in-chief at Eerdmans, said foot traffic at the publisher's booth was heavy, and that copies of Amy Peeler's Women and the Gender of God sold out. Additionally, "Our editors found that authors have used the pandemic season to think up some really outstanding ideas for new books," Ernest says.
Next year’s annual meetings are scheduled for Nov. 18 to 21 in San Antonio, Tex.