Books Are Back at BookExpo America in New York. (Special Report)

By Ott, Bill | American Libraries, August 2002 | Go to article overview

Books Are Back at BookExpo America in New York. (Special Report)


Ott, Bill, American Libraries


In stark contrast to previous years, books--old-fashioned books, the kind printed on paper--were the main topic at this year's Book Expo America, held in New York City May 3-5. If booksellers weren't exactly dancing on the grave of the e-book, they certainly were noticeably excited and more than a little relieved to be talking books instead of electronics or economics. The good spirits evident on the floor of the show also had something to do with the location and the weather--glorious, cloud-free spring days with temperatures in the 80s. That the show was returning to New York--still the center of trade-book publishing--for the first time in more than a decade was itself cause for excitement in the eyes of many of the 31,726 registrants (a substantial increase from last year's 21,896). But the added sense of participating in the city's post-September 11 revival gave all the attendees still another reason to celebrate.

The aisles, especially on opening day, were jammed to the point of gridlock with eager booksellers, librarians, and media representatives elbowing their peers out of the way in a quest to collect free galleys and gawk at the various celebrities, literary and otherwise, on display at the booths of the larger publishers. Amid the crowds queued to meet such authors as Jean Auel, Mary Higgins Clark, and Walter Mosley, there was also plenty of business being done. The oft-expressed lament that BEA has become a "sub-rights show" was heard less frequently this year, as booksellers, identified by the color of their badges, seemed more prominent on the floor--hardly the endangered species some had accused them of being at previous shows.

Adult sales up, children's slump

Cash registers weren't clinking just on the convention floor. Numbers released during the show indicate that, even in a troubled economy, people are still buying books. In 2002, a year beset by falling stock prices and a plethora of other negative economic indicators, consumer spending on books will increase by 2.1% to a total $31.8 billion, according to projections from the Book Industry Study Group. Adult trade sales will lead the way with a projected 4.5% increase, offsetting an anticipated 4.1% drop in children's sales, the effect of a year without a new Harry Potter book.

J. K. Rowling may be having trouble finishing off her latest Potter story, but there is no shortage of other authors eager to take her place atop best-seller lists. …

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