By Edward Nawotka
If one were to summarize what could be learned from BEA 2010, it might be this: Print and Digital are learning to co-exist.
Several deals announced during the show, including Baker and Taylor’s agreement to work with LibreDigital for expanded digital content distribution, Penguin’s announcement that is has worked out an arrangement with Amazon to once again sell e-books on the Kindle, and the news that the American Booksellers Association will partner to sell e-books when Google Editions launches this summer, are indications that legacy print publishers and bricks-and-mortar retailers are are finding mutually beneficial ways to collaborate with their upstart, digital peers.
The Russians are Coming in 2012
BEA owes a debt of gratitude to the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull for the notable influx of foreign visitors to the annual US trade show that finished up in New York yesterday. With so many meetings canceled in London due to travel interruptions, many people rescheduled their meetings for New York instead.
“My Russian sub-agents we’re here,” noted Amy Hundley, subsidiary rights director and editor for Grove/Atlantic, “and they never come to BEA.” As we pointed out earlier this week, the Russians had their first collective stand ever at BEA this year, something that helped land them the honor of being the Global Market Focus for BEA 2012.
Two Days Good, Three Days Better
Spain, which was this year’s Global Market Focus, had a significant footprint on the show floor but one wonders if the Spanish might not feel shortchanged after this year’s experiment with opening the exhibition halls for only two days, instead of the usual three.
And while BEA’s Steven Rosato noted that many people “liked” the two-day experiment, show organizers announced a return to a three-day exhibition schedule for 2011, citing many people’s “need” for that final day.
The concentrated two day schedule certainly added a sense of urgency to the show floor and may have contributed to the feeling that some had of being overwhelmed. First timer, Jennifer Sicurella, a book blogger who publishes online at readingwithtequila.com, said she left the fair on Wednesday “with more galleys than I’ll be able to read in a year,” though couldn’t identify any particular title she had to race home and crack open; nevertheless, on Thursday, she was back for more.
A similar sense of being overburdened by choice was expressed by visitors to the IDPF’s Digital Zone, with many coming away with the impression that there were dozens of new e-readers on offer -– the Chinese e-reader producer Hanvon exhibited six different versions, for example –- though none could match the impact of the iPad, which went on sale in Europe and Australasia yesterday.
The Passage Takes Center Stage
Indeed, while digital dominated the discussion in many circles, the big appeal of BEA is the books. This year, the “book of the fair” was relatively easy to pick: Justin Cronin’s The Passage, a post-apocalyptic thriller about a secret US government experiment to produce vampiric super-soldiers. Cronin’s in-booth book signing held during the final hour of the fair still managed to attract some 235 people and the much buzzed about book was everywhere –- attached as a decal to the badges issued to fairgoers, discussed on several panels, and hanging over the convention center in the form of 70 ft. banner. Publisher Ballantine Books has many millions of dollars of advance money already invested in Cronin’s success and gauging the reaction of the show, their announced first printing of 250,000 copies –- due in stores on June 5 -– may be too small.
What does the future hold?
In aggregate, BEA 2010 signaled was a return to confidence in the book business, following several years of trepidation. Certainly, publishers themselves have taken a much more conservative -– some would say, overly conservative –- approach to the show. Random House’s booth remained modest; Macmillan imprints were each relegated to tiny tables.
What this says about the future viability of BEA is only guesswork at this point, but the shows willingness to experiment with the format to get the best possible results is welcome.