BookExpo America Draws Excellent Crowds in L.A., Wows Your IOBA Reporter


Fall 2003 (Vol. IV, No. 3) Table of Contents


I’ve attended many conventions of many types over the past half-century, but the 2003 BookExpo America (BEA) at the Los Angeles Convention Center, May 29-June1, was a whole new experience. Big auto shows in Detroit, NYC and Chicago were much easier to cover, with far fewer products on display. RV expos were only a little larger, but had far less hype and bells & whistles. Computer shows tended to be mind-boggling, especially Comdex in Las Vegas; sensory overload prevailed and I burnt out on those events a decade ago.

As a first-timer at BEA, my initial reaction was: “This is great!” Coming on the heels of the L.A. Times Festival of Books (see Vol. 4, No. 2), held at UCLA a month earlier, it reinforced the feeling that reading and books (and selling them) still matter to a great many people.

This euphoria quickly gave way to panic. How on earth could I, even with help from my wife/photographer, cover this huge event in the single day that circumstances allowed? “You can’t,” I told myself, and resolved to take in as much of the Expo as possible, and report as much as I could for The Standard.

Now in its 103rd year, BookExpo America offers a showcase of books in all formats, plus gift items and music CDs and DVDs, as well as new technology and services. It is an educational forum that looks at the business of books from many viewpoints and provides a meeting place for the entire book industry, from sellers and publishers to agents and authors.

Total attendance for all industry professionals was 27,143, about 4,000 fewer than attended BEA 2002, which was held in New York City, traditional heart of the book publishing industry. The total number of book buyers who attended was 6,684, compared to 7,049 last year in NYC. All in all, it was a very respectable showing of support for the West Coast event.

One complaint we heard from some publishers was that holding the Expo a month earlier (this was the earliest BEA in history) created problems for them. “We’ve had to prepare promotion and marketing material for some books due to be published in the fall without having seen the manuscripts,” was an off-the-record lament from one marketing rep for a major publisher. The same gripe may have simmered below the surface during the show but participants were careful not to let it spoil the generally upbeat tenor of the event.

The Show Floor featured more than 2,000 exhibits, including the new Graphic Novel/Comic Pavilion and e-Book Experience areaThe latter was prime evidence that the publishing industry takes electronic books seriously. Expanded areas included larger Children’s Book and Spanish Book Pavilions. Show representatives pointed out that there were more Show Special HOT DEALS offered by exhibitors than ever before. – and even a special HOT DEALS directory you could pick up on-site to help you find these Show Specials.

Various educational programs were offered during the show. The American Booksellers Association (ABA) put together a comprehensive array of sessions and events for independent booksellers “covering all aspects of the business.” (“All aspects,” that is, for brick-&-mortar store owners. I guess IOBA should do something similar for independent online booksellers in the future!) Other events focused on children’s books and other specialized areas.

The BookExpo America Program featured a record breaking 650+ authors in the traditional autographing and in-booth program. The Author Photo Center, where you could have your photo taken with one of 30 well-known authors and receive a press release for your local paper, drew big crowds. (Unfortunately, we learned about this too late and came home sans photos and press releases.)

There were a lot of Special Events this year, many of them new or expanded. They included:

 

  1. ·Special Evening with Emmy-winning writer and comic, Ellen DeGeneres
  2. ·Variety magazine’s – Hollywood: Books to Blockbusters
  3. ·Children’s Books Too Good to Miss with Barbara Park, Robert Sabuda, Christopher and Walter Dean Meyers
  4. ·Author Breakfasts/Teas with Toni Morrison, Madeleine Albright, Michael Moore, Anita Diamant and Jonathan Lethem
  5. ·New MediaTalk Lunch with Molly Ivins, Tucker Carlson, Bill O’Reilly and Al Franken (I hated to miss a possible confrontation between Ivins and O’Reilly, but the timing was wrong.)
  6. ·New Graphic Novel Author events featuring Neil Gaiman and others
  7. ·New Spanish/Latino Author events featuring Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez and more
  8. ·New Emerging writers programs highlighting the book world’s up and comers

There was lots more but we left after nearly eight hours, tired but happy, and weighed down with bulging bags of Show Specials, newly autographed books and stacks of catalogs for our reference files.

 

The Standard: The Journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association

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