The almost complete absence of non-exhibiting attendees to the Book Expo on Sunday afternoon should be a real wake-up call to the Reed Exhibitions people. The show's use as a way for publishers and authors to interact directly with customers has been waning for several years, but this year seem incredibly weak.
That rasping sound of packing tape, that is not supposed to be heard in the hall until the official close at 4pm, could heard throughout the hall by 11:30am. What's going on?
Most publishers I spoke with, anticipated a 'light' show, and sent fewer people. Many expected this simply because it was in Los Angeles. But I think the 'lightness' was even 'lighter' than many expected. The publishers I was speaking with were openly questioning why they come at all, and all vowed to send even fewer people and take less space next year.
But we've been hearing those sounds for years. Maybe next year, back in New York, the attendance will be different. But will it be buyers and librarians, or simply more publishing people? If the 2009 show in NYC does not have a dramatic rebound from this year, then I think the 2011 show in Las Vegas will be doomed.
I personally love the BEA. I get to see all my clients in one place, rekindle many old connections, and make some new ones. While grueling, it is also generally a very gratifying experience. But my role there is different than most. My customers are the exhibitors, not the attendees. If they stop showing, so will I.