Reviews were mixed for the 15th annual Chicago Remainder and Overstock Book Exposition (CIROBE), held October 28—30 in its customary venue, the Chicago Hilton and Towers. As usual, order-writing dominated, but the show was not entirely the lovefest of years past.
For a start, many attendees noted sparser crowds this year, though several of these same showgoers enthused over their business. Virginia Taylor of Taylor Marketing, for example, noted "lighter than usual" traffic, though she still wrote some $300,000 in orders—"way higher than last year." For other exhibitors, though, fewer buyers meant fewer orders; Stephen Ash of Grange Books in England found the show "a little slow."
One possible cause of the less-than-bustling atmosphere was increased selling through remainder companies' Web sites. One customer told Daedalus Books co-owner Tamara Stock that he was doing very little business because "I'm all caught up—I've just been to your site." And although Stock admits this was "not a banner year," she wrote 84 orders in a single day, compared to the 76 she took in all five days at Frankfurt. Another success story was reported by Debbie Smith of Bargain Books Wholesale, who wrote close to 20 orders on Sunday, a traditionally slow day. Another reason put forth for the show's apparent slowdown was the presence of several "breakout rooms" adjacent to the main exhibition space in which many of the larger vendors see their major customers for two or three days before the show. Though this practice has been going on for several years, some expressed concern that major buyers conclude their business even before the show's opening and thus don't visit the smaller exhibitors.
The books themselves might have had something to do with it. Many found the selections on offer to be run-of-the-mill and a drag on business. As CIROBE cofounder Brad Jonas noted, "This show is only as good as the books people have to sell." Come Sunday's closing, the organizers were upbeat, if philosophical. Cofounder Marshall Smith said, "We were extremely pleased, even though it might not have been the feeding frenzy of years past. People want superlatives forever, and after 15 years, that's just not going to happen."