As Canadian publishers and booksellers absorbed the news that Reed Exhibitions had closed the annual convention and trade show BookExpo Canada (BEC) and would not mount a consumer event proposed for the fall, opinions about what should replace the show, if anything, were mixed.

The Canadian Booksellers Association, which has been a partner with Reed (a sister company to PW) for BEC and has held its annual general meeting in June to coincide with it, said a show of some kind must go on. Executive director Susan Dayus expressed disappointment on behalf of the CBA membership, but she said that because the CBA still has a contract with Reed, it was too soon to say what the association will do next. “We believe there is a need for a national gathering of booksellers, publishers, authors and others connected to the book industry, and CBA will work to make that happen,” Dayus said.

Although support for the trade show had diminished in recent years among publishers, particularly the largest houses, some still counted its closure as a big loss. House of Anansi Press president Sarah MacLachlan said she understands that the show in its current format in Toronto's Metro Convention Centre was not cost effective for multinational publishers who paid high prices for large booths. Still, she said, for Anansi, the show was cost effective and a vital place to introduce new talent to booksellers across the country. MacLachlan emphasized that a national gathering for the industry is still important. “We're a tribe—a small and endangered tribe, but we're a tribe,” she said.

Other publishers, however, had been questioning the need for and purpose of BEC, at least in its big trade show format, for some time. HarperCollins Canada president David Kent said, “The problem is, you are trying to please a very broad spectrum of constituents, and when you are trying to please everybody, you please nobody.”

ECW Press publisher Jack David said he didn't think it was necessary to replace BEC with some other kind of national industry gathering. “Sales reps going to the booksellers has replaced everyone coming to the publishers,” he said. But he acknowledged that publishers and booksellers will miss the opportunity to gather and that people who live outside of Toronto will be most affected. David suggested that something focused on readers and bookselling, like Quebec's salon du livre events, might be more appropriate for the times.

Philip Cercone, executive director of McGill-Queen's University Press, agreed that the time for a big trade show has passed and that a salon du livre might work as a model for regional events. “I even have fears for BEA [BookExpo America] because—let's be quite frank about this—there aren't that many independent bookstores in this country or in the United States anymore,” he said. The salon du livre events are held in several Quebec cities, but the largest one is in Montreal. “It's quite a celebration,” said Cercone, who said he goes every year to look for French books he could publish in English. But primarily the salons draw big crowds of consumers who come to see the new fall books and buy books for the holidays directly from the publishers. That's where the idea runs into a problem. “If a public event meant publishers selling direct to the public, CBA would be adamantly opposed,” said Dayus.

But there were plenty of other suggestions. “We can showcase our books and authors in ways that may be better than a cocktail party on a trade show floor,” said McClelland & Stewart president Doug Pepper, referring to the BEC format. He would like to see an event that attracts more international attention. “The IFOA [International Festival of Authors in Toronto] is arguably one of the best reading festivals in the world,” he noted, speculating that it could expand to include some new elements that might encourage foreign publishers to come shopping for rights to Canadian books.

Random House of Canada declined to comment on BEC's demise, but the company had already announced a new showcase of its own. Named after its co-sponsor, the Globe and Mail Open House Festival will take place May 8—10, and will feature high-profile Canadian and international authors such as Naomi Klein, Wayson Choy, Nino Ricci, Zoë Heller, Calvin Trillin and David Wroblewski.

So far, the only event that is still on in June during the days scheduled for BEC is Book Summit, a one-day professional development conference co-sponsored by Toronto's Humber College and the Book and Periodical Council, which was presciently moved away from BEC to a venue at Toronto's Harbourfront for this year.

The ruminatings and reimaginings continue. Just back from Salt Lake City, McArthur & Company president Kim McArthur suggested that the ABA Winter Institute she attended there offered a good model to follow, with two days of educational seminars for booksellers, a keynote breakfast with industry leaders and “speed dating” for publishers to pitch their spring lists to booksellers. “I'm all for it, and we still have time to organize it,” she said.

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Williams is a Canadian contributor to PW.