A New Book Expo? Not By a Long Shot

From Publishers Weekly:

Another May has come and gone without BookExpo or any other in-person, industrywide spring show taking its place. As the pandemic eases, more and more publishing and publishing-related conferences, meetings, and fairs are moving from online-only events to either in-person or hybrid affairs. That has raised the question of whether there’s any interest in seeing a new national in-person trade show emerge that could gather the various segments of the book industry together in 2023. Interviews with a myriad of publishers, booksellers, and other publishing players yielded only one consensus: if a new show is to be developed, it should not look like the retired BookExpo. Indeed, no one wants a new show whose business model would rely on exhibitors taking out large, expensive booths.

In the absence of in-person shows, publishers have turned to various digital initiatives to reach their trade partners—particularly independent booksellers. Macmillan said that from June 13 to 17 it will be holding the Macmillan Fall into Summer Reading campaign, a weeklong virtual preview of upcoming titles being published in June through December. A handful of online conferences also sprung up to fill the void left by BookExpo’s demise, including the PW-produced U.S. Book Show.

. . . .

The success of their virtual ventures—augmented by their attendance at smaller in-person events, especially those held by the regional bookseller associations plus ABA’s Winter Institute—seems to have convinced the biggest companies that they can efficiently reach the audiences they need via Zoom and other online services. As one major publisher observed, “The opportunities for account-facing engagements is just not as urgent or productive as pre-Zoom times.” All the biggest companies made it clear that their participation in a national in-person conference would be limited.

Smaller and independent publishers were more interested in a national event, but only if the show underwent a complete makeover from BookExpo in its final years.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

If the traditional publishers themselves have concluded that fact-to-face bookselling to buyers for physical bookstores is not a profitable use of the publishers’ time, PG suggests that may say something about where publishers how they see their futures lie and, perhaps, how they regard the future of bookselling in physical bookstores.

7 thoughts on “A New Book Expo? Not By a Long Shot”

  1. The pandemic isn’t easing. Everyone has convenient amnesia.

    A Book Expo is optional. With a huge bunch of people, however high the ceilings are in the convention halls.

    Virtual events don’t leave you with a bag of new books – unless, of course, they’re digital. Funny how that will work.

  2. I was surprised (well, not really) to see what I assume was a professional writer, ironically from Publishers Weekly no less, write “a myriad of publishers.”

    You can have “myriad publishers” or “a plethora of publishers” or just a plain old “lot/bunch/ton/slew/monkeypod of publishers.”

    The whole thing reminds me of seeing a small new shipment of HarBrace College Handbooks at a college library. The box was boldly marked GRAMMER BOOKS. Then again, I’m not the “grammer police.” Pros should know better, that’s all.

    Of course, I’m also probably wrong. Since I last checked the dickshunary, the offensive construction might have achieved acceptabliciousness.

    • Well, I thought it was both a noun and an adjective, so being one of those words where either construction is acceptable. But what do I know, I’m just a superannuated mathematician whose formal knowledge of the language is most noted for my inability to spell correctly.

      I normally think “noun” as in a unit of 10,000 men in some theoretical army organisation dreampt up by an ancient armchair general. The idea of a gathering of 10,000 publishers is a bit off-putting, though if they were all giving away free books…

      (And should that be “dreamed up” or is dream both a regular and irregular verb?)

    • The English word myriad was a noun before it was an adjective. ‘A myriad of publishers’ is correct English, and has been so as long as the relevant words have been in the language. The adjectival use, which you insist is the only correct one, came later.

      It must take considerable chutzpah to be so confident in setting the record wrong.

  3. “The opportunities for account-facing engagements is just not as urgent or productive as pre-Zoom times.”

    Translation: We’re so big we don’t really have to sell anymore, they’ll buy from us regardless. Where else are they going to get their books from?

    … an industrywide show isn’t feasible, she said, because “the big boys don’t care and the small presses that need it more cannot afford it.”

    Ditto.

    • Rather, they’ve finally figured out that ‘account-facing engagements’ didn’t actually sell books. They fought tooth and nail to keep paying that expense in the belief that it was necessary to their sales; but once they were forcibly deprived of their ‘engagements’, they found that they did just as well or poorly without them.

      It turned out that they did not actually need a banana in their ear to keep the alligators away. But someone had to take away their banana for them to find this out.

  4. Remember that these events are B2B (business to business) events. Publishers selling their wares to booksellers. Booksellers that are seeing their margins contract, or, for many, going even further negative, as inflation raises their costs and reduces their customers’ spending.

    Travel, lodging, per diem costs for attending a convention are always among the first things to be looked at with a critical eye when it comes to trimming fat in the company.

    Why should a publisher put out tens of thousands to appear in a place that most of their customers are not going to show up? (Their main “customer” doesn’t have to be talked into selling their newest books – Amazon will take whatever they have available.)

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