BookExpo Announces a Shorter Trade Show for 2020 in New York City

From Publishing Perspectives:

In a “Dear Valued Customer” letter this morning (September 9) from Reed Exhibitions event manager Jennifer Martin, BookExpo has announced changes in its approach for the 2020 outing of the beleaguered US trade show at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.

Citing a 38-percent increase in bookseller and retailer attendance in May for this year’s show, Martin also points out that 145 American Bookseller Association attendees were supported by the show’s “Bestsellers Grant Program” of travel subsidies.

Nevertheless, what Martin describes as a jump in attendance has not led the administration to continue its two-and-a-half-day schedule. The first of several changing elements Martin announces in her letter is a return to the two-day show schedule.

Distilled to the points being announced, however, there actually are very few confirmed elements of next year’s show in Martin’s letter.

. . . .

A two-day exhibition floor. BookExpo 2020—which is set for May 27 to 29—will return to a two-day exhibition-floor schedule. As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the floor opened this year at midday on the Wednesday of the week. Next year, Martin writes, Wednesday will revert to being a full day of conference and “education,” the latter referring to informational sessions akin to those known as Insight Seminars by regular attendees of the London Book Fair.

As Martin explains the reversion to the shorter exhibitors’ show, “In 2019, we moved back to a three-day event. The goal was to give everyone additional time on the floor to discover and connect. Though some saw value in it, most found it challenging and costly. After two months of in-depth conversations with customers, we have decided to return to a two-day trade show schedule, with Wednesday dedicated solely to programming and education. BookExpo will take place on Thursday and Friday; BookCon on Saturday and Sunday.”

. . . .

Editors’ Speed Dating. Martin says a cooperative effort in one-on-one encounters for booksellers with editors proved to be “a good format.” She writes, “It is platforms like this that we plan to increase, that connect the right groups of people in a focused way to foster real discussions with measurable and actionable outcomes.” She does not, however, actually say that this program will return.

Non-book retail show. Dubbed “UnBound” by the fair, this parallel exhibition floor is placed on the southern end of the Javits Center, a vast area largely abandoned by publishing exhibitors in the last few years as the show shrinks. The exhibitors here comprise, as Reed puts it, “a curated assortment of distinctive bookish goods hand- selected for the book channel.”

. . . .

The New York Rights Fair. Here again, Martin isn’t clear, but her tone seems to indicate that the rights-trading floor will be back in 2020. In 2018, as BolognaFiere and Publishers Weekly reconstituted BookExpo’s rights-trading area as the New York Rights Fair, they moved it to the Metropolitan Pavilion across town. The distance and separation of the rights center from the rest of the trade show pleased very few people, and the rights trading was brought back into the Javits in May, still as the newly branded New York Rights Fair.

On the whole, the rights-trading tables area looked remarkably empty during BookExpo in May, although Martin says that exhibitors and attendees came from more than 73 countries. What seemed to work best, as it did in 2018, was the programming attached to the rights trading area in a comfortable stage area with effective (and welcome) sound-deflection panels. Again, however, this rather imprecise letter doesn’t actually state the 2020 status of the New York Rights Fair.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

During an earlier stage of his legal career, PG was involved in the planning of the largest legal technology trade show in the United States. He has also attended some giant technology shows in San Francisco/Silicon Valley. These experiences don’t make him an expert on publishing trade shows, but does lead him to speculate on what’s happening with BookExpo.

  • Reed Exhibitions is a subsidiary of RELX (formerly Reed Elsevier), a very large company that makes most of its money from legal, scientific and academic publishing.
  • RELX used to own Publishing Perspectives, the source of the OP, but sold it off in 2009. The only reason a company like RELX sells something is that what’s being sold isn’t making much money.
  • Trade shows must cater to two audiences who don’t necessarily have the same interests:
    1. A business or professional group – doctors, lawyers, book stores, etc.
    2. Entities that sell products or services to the business or professional group
  • So, a typical trade show consists of two parts:
    1. Education/information programs that attract significant numbers of book stores, doctors, lawyers, etc.
    2. An exhibition hall in which vendors who would like to reach book store owners, doctors, lawyers, etc., set up booths, put on product demonstrations, give away tote bags, caps, buttons, etc., bearing the corporate logo or product name.
  • A trade show usually requires an admission fee from members of the business or professional group, but free tickets are often available for members of the target group who are in the know or are typically given to those speaking in the educational segment.
  • PG can’t speak for all trade shows, but has been informed that most of the money most shows generate comes from the exhibitors.

PG’s semi-professional take on the OP is that Reed Exhibitions doesn’t think the latest BookExpo was very successful from a financial standpoint. Perhaps Reed had to discount exhibit space or bring in exhibitors tangential to the core purpose of the show in order to fill the exhibit hall. Perhaps Reed is having problems attracting good quality speakers for the show.

The garbling of the message from Reed described in the OP may be an indication that Reed’s best thinkers are paying more attention to other shows than they are to BookExpo.

6 thoughts on “BookExpo Announces a Shorter Trade Show for 2020 in New York City”

  1. A slight quibble:

    One other reason that “a company like RELX sells something” is that nosy-Parker antitrust authorities start snooping around, the company knows that it will be damaged — especially reputationally — by further inquiry or dispute, and the company throws the antitrust authority a bone by divesting something. It’s usually something that is either an extremely recent acquisition, or is in a business line that is subject to lots competition anyway (especially from newcomers because it has relatively low entry barriers).

    <sarcasm> Gee. I wonder what was happening in 2008-09 that made US, UK, and/or EU antitrust regulators begin inquiries? </sarcasm>

    • There is that, too.

      I’ve heard top executives of “a company like RELX” complain that US antitrust enforcement officials are very unreasonable compared to their European counterparts.

  2. Citing a 38-percent increase in bookseller and retailer attendance in May for this year’s show,

    Wonderful. How about revenue, costs, and profit?

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