BookExpo and BookCon Are No More

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From Publishers Weekly:

U.S. book publishing’s biggest trade show is being “retired,” show organizer ReedPop announced today. BookExpo, along with BookCon and Unbound, will not be held in 2021 after being canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

ReedPop, the pop culture event–focused subdivision of Reed Exhibitions, said that, given the “continued uncertainty surrounding in-person events at this time,” the company has decided “that the best way forward is to retire the current iteration of events as they explore new ways to meet the community’s needs through a fusion of in-person and virtual events.”

In order to try to hold the event earlier this year, Reed moved the date from its usual spot at New York City’s Javits Center in late May to late July, but as the coronavirus continued to make larger meetings impossible, Reed cancelled the live conference and held six days of free virtual programming from May 26-31, the original dates of BookExpo and BookCon.

Event director Jenny Martin said that ReedPop is talking to publishers, booksellers, and other partners to investigate how to rebuild the events.

“The pandemic arrived at a time in the life cycle of BookExpo and BookCon where we were already examining the restructure of our events to best meet our community’s needs,” Martin said in a statement. “This has led us to make the difficult decision to retire the events in their current formats, as we take the necessary time to evaluate the best way to move forward and rebuild our events that will better serve the industry and reach more people than we were able to before. We remain committed to serving the book community and look forward to sharing more information in the future.”

. . . .

Reed Exhibitions’ convention business has been hammered by Covid-19. Through the first nine months of 2020, revenue was down 70%.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG suggests this represents a sea change.

Big industry conventions, often referred to as “trade shows” in the United States, can be serious money-makers for those who sponsor and organize these events.

A business like Reed is retained by an association of businesses or professionals (The American Bar Association is one with which PG is familiar).

Dates and locations for large trade shows are usually established for several years into the future. In the US, New York and Chicago are major convention destinations due to good national and international transportation infrastructure, lots of hotels and restaurants, a variety of large and medium-sized spaces that will accommodate the number of attendees, exhibitors, etc.

Depending on the size of the convention and what the market will bear for registration fees for attendees and exhibitor’s fees, money may flow from the from the company, like Reed, that actually makes the trade show happen to the nominal sponsor of the show, e.g., The American Bar Association, a group of business associations involved in manufacturing and selling heavy construction equipment, parts, supplies, etc. (CONEXPO), The Consumer Electronics Show for technology products, etc., etc., etc.

In other cases, the organization sponsoring the show won’t receive much money or any money from a company like Reed, but will benefit from member dues from existing and new members which a successful conference generates.

There is often an educational component to a trade show – “Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support”, “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace”, “Cybersecurity Best Practices in Elections”, etc., etc., etc.

PG has gone on too long. In short, the overall business of putting on trade shows is a large one and Reed is one of the major players in that business. Building interest and attendance in a trade show usually requires at least several years of hard work, promotion, etc., on the part of those involved in facilitating the show.

Reed’s seeming permanent abandonment of BookExpo and BookCon is communicating Reed’s assessment of the future of traditional publishing as a major industry.

2 thoughts on “BookExpo and BookCon Are No More”

  1. No surprise.
    It’s not the first nor will it be the last.

    It’s (stop me if you’ve heard tbis before) an acceleration of pre-pandemic trends, where the big companies that are typically the tent poke attendants to the trade shows discovered tbat it was more cost effective to mount their own show with prerecorded presentations (no fiasco demos) and live streaming it to interested parties.

    This shut down the in person portion and companies discovered the streamed version drew a bigger attendance, more press coverage and buzz, and cost less.

    The benchmark (for now) was Warner Bros two DC online events, a week apart. Not only did they host media panels for all tbeir movies TV shows and comics lines, they streamed edited versions to the general public for 24 hours, half one week, the rest the following.

    Monstruos attendance, minimal cost.

    CES is headed that way. First Apple dropped out, then Microsoft. Google and Amazon run tbeir own events, too. That leaves then with China, Inc, and a horde of startups. And minimal profits, if any.

    Note that those are industries where trade shows/presentations have measurable PR payoffs aand profits for the organizers. With the bigger players discovering how to get the buzz at a lower cost, organizers are downsizing or canceling. Otr downsizing on tbe say to cancelation.

  2. Even though I attended a zillion legal technology trade shows in one of my former lives, the only thing that couldn’t be virtualized with today’s technology was having dinner with lawyer friends and swapping war stories.

    Fortunately, I only had to work in an exhibitor’s booth a couple of times and that was boring torture.

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