Librarians who visited BookExpo America at McCormick Place in Chicago May 31-June 2 were treated to a mouth-watering sight - hundreds of exhibits filled with publisher's catalogs, previews of fall releases, give-aways, sign-ups, and send-offs. This annual extravaganza brings together publishers, booksellers, librarians, authors, and distributors to showcase the latest titles and discuss industry trends.
Prior to 1997, this event was the American Booksellers Association (ABA) convention and trade exhibit. Now BookExpo America is produced and managed by Association Expositions & Services (a subsidiary of Reed Elsevier) and is cosponsored by both ABA and the Association of American Publishers (AAP).
Some believe that having the trade show managed by a company whose other units are in the publishing business was the reason why some major New York trade houses decided to pull out - among them Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Bantam Doubleday Dell. Attendance consequently dropped nearly 12,000 from last year for a total of 25,732; but even so this is a big trade show. The final figure topped ALA's highest Annual Conference turnout by more than 1,000, although BookExpo only had 486 librarian attendees.
The aisles were conveniently categorized by type of publication, so that anyone looking specifically for art books, professional and technical literature, or gay/lesbian/feminist genres could march directly to those exhibits for browsing and vendor interaction.
Many of the religious, spiritual, and New Age publishers shared a sector that seemed to have an aura of its own. Perhaps that can be explained by the presence of several authors of books on feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of arranging your surroundings to optimize the flow of earth energies. Two BookExpo seminars were devoted to using feng shui principles to enhance a bookstore's success. Hmmm . . . Are libraries missing out on something here?
Librarians who attended BookExpo recognized the differences between this event and an ALA conference. Skokie (Ill.) Public Library's Ricki Nordmeyer said that it was "nice to see so many university presses here - they are less of a presence at ALA." This was also true of the international and foreign-language press, which included exhibitors from Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, Poland, and Switzerland.
Valerie A. Maine of the Vernon Area Public Library in Lincolnshire, Illinois, had attended two out of the past three BookExpos. "I go to ALA too, but there the meetings are paramount," she told American Libraries. "Here the programs are not very relevant."
Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library's Deborah Griffin-Sadel said that BookExpo was the best venue for adult trade books, while ALA is mostly children's book publishers and computer system vendors. …