New York’s 2020 BookExpo and BookCon: Canceled

In News by Porter Anderson

Coronavirus Update: The United States’ annual publishing trade show, Book Expo–and its associated consumer-facing BookCon–had been moved from May to July, but six primary exhibitors had withdrawn.

Author signing lines on the southern end of the Javits Center’s exhibition floor, in the 2018 edition of BookExpo. Image: Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Martin: ‘2020 Is No Longer a Viable Option’
The 2020 BookExpo and BookCon in New York City have been canceled today (April 14). Dates for the 2021 iteration of the trade show and public festival have not yet been announced. Messages to the news media say “in the spring.”

As Publishing Perspectives will remember, ReedPop on March 19 announced that it had moved the industry show and its conference day from the traditional end-of-May dates to July 22 to 24 for BookExpo and July 25 and 26 for the consumer-facing weekend BookCon.

However, as was the case with Italy’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair—which also attempted to move to later dates and then had to cancel entirely—the BookExpo/BookCon organizers have decided the postponement to July isn’t going to work.

Today’s statement from the show’s director, Jennifer Martin, reads, “As the pandemic has continued to escalate in the United States and we see the challenges it has brought for the book industry, it’s clear that 2020 is no longer a viable option for this community.”

It’s worth pointing out that both the move to the July dates and today’s ultimate cancellation have come far earlier than the six-days-to-go cancellation of Reed Exhibitions’ London Book Fair in March. These earlier decisions benefit everyone concerned, particularly intended exhibitors and attendees who need to manage travel plans and other details.

On the other hand, BookExpo had seen all five of the Big Five publishers in the United States withdraw from the event. And earlier this month, an exit was announced by Ingram Content Group—easily the biggest holder of real estate on the exhibition hall floor at BookExpo in recent years. It can be surmised that whatever might have been staged in July, if anything, would have been a dramatically downsized evocation of a show that’s been shrinking for years.

The site of the show in Manhattan—the sprawling Jacob K. Javits Center convention complex—is now serving as a federally operated COVID-19 hospital, one of New York’s several such field facilities built to support the city and state in the largest coronavirus battle in the United States.

At this writing, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center at 5:21 p.m. ET (2121 GMT) is citing 7,905 deaths in New York City alone, and the Worldometers dashboard sees 773 new deaths today in the state of New York. The United States currently shows 594,207 cases and 125,476 deaths in the pandemic.

Martin: ‘We Stand With You’

Jennifer Martin

In the statement posted to the site from Martin, she writes, “While we cannot move forward with a physical event in 2020, we’re finding new and different ways to connect our exhibitors, attendees, and readers to celebrate books virtually, and we look forward to coming back stronger in 2021.

“We stand with you and we’ll do everything we can in the coming months to highlight your business, bring our community together, and support you,” Martin writes, adding, “Your tickets for the 2020 event will be automatically refunded. No action is required on your end.”

On the BookCon site, a cheery ‘We Will Return’ note for fans, whose tickets are to be automatically refunded. Image: ReedPop

More from Publishing Perspectives on BookExpo is here, and more from us on the coronavirus pandemic is here.

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About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.