A sea-change came a’blowin’ at BookExpo America 2010. For the first time, IDPF partnered with Reed Exhibitions and the week began with IDPF’s annual conference. Edward Nawotka, from the daily Publishing Perspectives, said on Wednesday, “…while in previous years at BEA there was growing angst that digital publishing was a sinkhole threatening to swallow the industry, confidence is growing as publishers, distributors, and marketers are finding solutions to the key questions of how to attract readers, and how to convert them from browsers into buyers.” My question was, would this prove true? The only way to tell would be to talk directly to publishers over the next two days. I was ready for Wednesday! Not just to ask about the digital explosion, but to see if the shorter, midweek show would be a hit.
Day two, the air turned hot hot, and stepping out my door, I realized I was woefully overdressed. Luckily the Expo kept New York’s heat at bay and the air conditioning wasn’t the only thing keeping me inside. The exhibit hall opened and the energy immediately concentrated over at the “Digital Book Zone;” I think largely due to the IDPF’s conference getting the game started the day before. Content service vendors worked a frenzied crowd, teaching publishers and readers how eBooks were created and displayed, asking them “What do you want in your eBook? We’ll help you build the product you want.” Booths were the most high-tech ever. Vendors had large-screen TVs; headsets and amplification so they could give presentations to large groups; and iPads, Kindles, and Nooks. Simply put, they were mobbed. I had two seconds to say “hey!” to friends and colleagues before we all went to work.
After spending a few hours in the DBZ, I headed out to work the floor. There were high profile authors everywhere, but I was there to find customers, not meet Pele, or Condoleezza Rice, or Amy Sedaris, or The Duchess of York, or…. Thanks to our marketing team and fellow salesperson, Pat Casey, I had been given the gift of zip drives loaded with our marketing collateral! No more bulky brochures to lug around for 8 hours/day!!! Freedom! I had spent Tuesday night mapping out my route; I moved clockwise and targeted specific booths, held a few meetings, and went on a treasure hunt.
Day three; it’s FREEZING outside and now I’m woefully underdressed! (No, I did not bother to find out about the weather; user error!) The buzz was that the convention center was pressuring BEA to go back to a 3-day event; not necessarily because the industry wanted it, according to one publisher I cannot name, but “because NY needed the $$$$$ from the hotels, restaurants, staff of the convention center, etc.” Although, according to Liz Thomson, from the BEA Show Daily, “with London being buried under an ash cloud and many publishers scrambling to make late bookings for New York, BEA could have perhaps whetted the appetite of new exhibitors for the years ahead. As it is, Reed Exhibitions may have played into the hands of their competitor—Frankfurt.”
Overall, I had more luck striking up casual conversations out in the foyer; large round tables had been set up as a “take a load off” spot, and that’s where the “what do you do?” worked best. One-to-one, smaller publishers are just sticking toes into the digital water. I answered a lot of questions and gave out a lot of zip drives!
- Baker & Taylor booth. Hands-on instruction about “Blio,” software they developed so you can purchase an eBook for one of your devices, and move it around to others.
- Content service vendors – the Digital Book Zone has pushed our industry players into the spotlight. Next year….
- Ingram Digital booth. Giant! Easy to maneuver, tons of reps
- BookMasters booth. Cozy, convivial, spot-on signage
- “Let’s meet by the statue of Jacob Javits”
- Plenty of seating in the food court
- Whose bright idea was it to have a bathroom in a high-traffic area with only two stalls?
- Water is $3.75 a bottle???
- “We don’t talk to vendors. Go to our website.”
In all, more thumbs up than down and a really really “good shew.”