As some of you might remember, earlier in the month we posted a Boston Globe piece about Book Expo America as one of our “Caught My Eye“ articles. In deciding to post the article, it became obviously to us that both publishers and librarians have a vested interest in what gets discussed at this annual meeting. So naturally, we are delighted that we now have the opportunity to post an eyewitness account from Dan Tonkery, President and CEO, Content Strategies that adds a lot more detail.
BEA 2012 Largest North American Publishing Trade Show
Book Expo is nearly a week long effort held in New York City at the Javits Center in early June this year with over 1300 exhibitors. The meeting’s main trust is to allow an opportunity for the independent booksellers to meet with publishers and authors. The meeting is not open to the general public and requires a registration. This year, with over 30,000 attendees the buzz at the meeting was very positive among the exhibitors. Several publishers I talked with thought that the booth traffic was up over last few years. It certainly appeared that the robust attendance affected the in-booth author signing this year and caused significant traffic jams in the exhibit aisles. Often adjacent booths would have attendees lined up for author autographs on both sides of the main aisles causing foot traffic to come to a standstill.
Part of what makes Book Expo interesting is the number of related meetings that occur during the main trade show. I was fortunate enough to attend the IDPF Digital Book Conference on June 4-5 and spent some time at BlogWorld & New Media Expo. There is a special emphasis on digital publishing at BEA 2012 and an entire exhibit area is reserved for the Digital Discovery Zone. It is somewhat ironic but mostly frustrating that while the topics at these sessions are always state of the art, the attendees are sitting in a room trying to capture notes and comments with slow, unresponsive wi-fi service. The poor wi-fi service is not just at the Javits Center, last week at the SSP meeting in Arlington VA, I had the same poor connection issue. It just seems that hotels and conference centers have not geared up to support the online traffic. My recent wi-fi experience on Amtrak was even worse. Sorry for the digression, now back to the meeting report.
The Digital Discovery Zone is an exhibit within the larger BEA exhibit where all the software companies providing a wide range of pre-publication, formatting, and conversion services for producing everything in electronic formats are located. The exhibitors included all the well-known companies like Apex CoVantage, Aptara, SPi Global as well as smaller companies like Publishing Technology. Any publisher looking for help in all aspects of producing e-books could find an appropriate solution in the Digital Discovery Zone.
In addition to the large well established companies in the Zone I found a number of small organizations offering some unique services. Autography, LLC from St.Petersburg, FL www.autography.com has a method of inserting an autograph into an ebook. Somehow the autographed page can include a photo of the author and consumer and there is a way to export the photo to the customer’s social media. Slicebooks www.slicebooks.com is another new company which offers a solution to slice and remix ebooks in minutes. The librarian in me instantly decided that this slice and remix application might provide an easy way to produce custom course packs for academic course use. The technology is there to go out and slice chapters or more from a number of different e-books and remix the content to produce a new e-book. Interesting idea but not all of the copyright issues have been thought out.
While everyone knows that Amazon is the undisputed 600 lb. gorilla in the e-book word supplying roughly 70% of the e-books and readers, I was very impressed with Kobo. Kobo is a global leader in eReading with triple digit growth with 8 million registered users in 190 countries. They have an inventory of 2.5 million titles. If I had to make a prediction, I believe that Barnes & Noble will split into two companies and Microsoft will take charge of the Nook side of the business. I expect to see the brick and mortar stores sold off. At this point B&N is just not keeping up in the eReader race. Even with Microsoft’s recent investment I believe it is coming too little and too late.
What is clear from recent studies reported at the meeting, there is widespread adoption of tablets and mobile devices as the platform of choice for eReading. Kindles and a host of other reading devices are on the market and consumers are making a switch from print to electronic in a rapidly growing rate. The rapid growth of e-Readers has provided rich soil for what some are calling the “golden age of self-publishing”. According to Kelly Gallagher vp for publishing services from Bowker, in 2011 there were 211,269 self-published titles. That is up from 133,036 in 2010. The most popular genre in terms of units is fiction (45%). The top players in the self-publishing space are Amazon’s CreateSpace at 57,602 titles; AuthorsSolutions 41,605 titles and Lulu at 30,019 titles.
It is clear from talking to attendees and publishers at BEA that while publishing is changing and sales are declining at the big brick and mortar stores, there is still a place in our society for the independent bookseller that has more to offer than just inventory. The small independent stores that survive are going to have to offer a community or environment for the reader that is engaging and interesting. Amazon has a commanding lead not because they are some evil empire out to control the world, but because of their technology and their paying careful attention to their consumers. They monitor and modify their systems based on the analysis of user behavior. They deliver services better than any other organization in our industry. Not only are they a big player in supplying traditional published works but it is clear they have a strategy to capture the self-published works as well.
Attending Book Expo in 2012 is far different than when I was there in 1986 or even 1996. So much has changed yet quality service, staying close to customers, and paying attention to details is still paying substantial rewards.
Dan Tonkery, President and CEO, Content Strategies, www.contentstrategies.com
Further reading: BEA 2012: Self-Published Titles Topped 211,000 in 2011
(If you were at the meeting, we invite you to reply with your observations. In fact, even if you were not at the BEA and just have a comment, please feel free to let us know what you think.)