The news last week from BookExpo America that it would be keeping the industry trade show in New York City for an extended period starting in 2010 and bumping it from the weekend to midweek, drew both jeers and cheers from attendees. Some worried about the cost of travel and room/board rising; some grumbled about having to leave the office to attend the show. Still others welcomed the news. As Lance Fensterman, v-p of BEA, explained, the changes were aimed to cater to as many attendees as possible, but these kinds of decisions are “polarizing no matter what.”

Gayle Shanks, co-owner of Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., and president of the ABA, agreed with Fensterman's sentiment that, with a show this size, it's impossible to please all the various parties. Shanks said that while she enjoys the show being closer to her home base from time to time, she sees the logic in making it more convenient for the major publishers, who are overwhelmingly located in New York. She also assumed her constituents were happy by the lack of calls she received after announcement of the changes. “Generally, I think [booksellers] are not upset and that's why I haven't heard from them.”

If there is a concern among booksellers, Shanks added, it's about cost. “The issue is whether the ABA will be able to negotiate as good a rate [for the 'bookseller hotel']. I think hotels are always more expensive during the week.” When asked about booksellers being away from their stores midweek instead of on the weekend, Shanks thought this might be a benefit, adding that in conversations at the Winter Institute, many booksellers said their busiest days are Saturday and Sunday.

Oren Teicher, COO of the ABA, echoed Shanks, saying that for booksellers, the cost of attending BEA is top-of-mind. He added that that BEA's move to give free badges to booksellers is a help. As Shanks put it, little things like the free badges “add up” and prove “Reed is doing everything it can to make [attending the show] affordable.”

Executives at the IBPA, the association for independent presses, had also not heard angry outcries from their members. Teresa Fogarty, IBPA marketing and public relations manager, said that if costs to attend BEA do rise with midweek hotel prices, the IBPA might consider changing the location of its educational sessions, which have historically been held during the trade show.

Expense was the reason most often cited by those who oppose the changes. One book buyer, responding to the initial story about the changes, said in a post on that BEA “continues to disappoint,” questioning whether the changes are good for the whole industry, particularly “those on the frontlines actually selling the books.” Another bookseller said that the 2008 show may be her last, because New York is “too expensive and hard to get around [in].” A librarian concurred, saying that New York is simply “too expensive for [those living in] Western states.”

Jen Reeder, cofounder of the Denver-based travel guide publisher Hot Tub Publishing, was one of those who posted on about the BEA changes. In a phone interview, Reeder said that the midweek dates are especially tough on small presses, who have few staffers. “Trying to have people come on a work day is shortsighted and ridiculous,” she said.

Fensterman said, somewhat philosophically, that with change comes “risk and opportunity.” He noted that none of the other major book fairs happen on a weekend and that Reed approached these changes asking what the show might look like if it were being “created anew.” He added that BEA studied hotel rates and found that, when it comes to booking rooms in bulk, the difference in cost between midweek stays and weekend stays is “fairly negligible when you're talking about 30,000 rooms.”

Source: Reed Business Information
2010: May 25—27
2011: May 24—26
2012: May 30—June 1