BookExpo Launches Merchandizing Trade Show UnBound as Solution to Declining Exhibitor Attendance

Over the past decade, the show floor at BookExpo has mirrored the changes in the book publishing industry. Fewer exhibitors were showing up because New York mattered less and because more business was being done online. (And frankly, if publishers wanted to meet the book buyers that mattered, they could just as easily buy plane tickets to Seattle and save the cost of exhibiting in NYC.)

Reed Expositions has a plan to turn around this trend, however. They are launching a new segment of Book Expo this year called Unbound. It’s going to feature non-book merchandise:

So, this year we’re bringing you and your merch teams a curated assortment of distinctive bookish goods hand- selected for the book channel. This “show within a show” will feature a diverse group of trend leaders and taste makers, artisanal one of a kind companies and designer-makers, with products ranging from journals greeting cards, games and specialty toys, tea towels, art materials, journals, calendars, candles and much more. UnBound will be your one-stop-shop and sourcing platform and we look forward to welcoming you.

The thing is, Book Expo has always had exhibitors who carried toys and gifts; visiting their booths was always one of the fun parts of BookExpo back when I attended. This year, however, the category is being heavily promoted.

“We hope to bring in a new audience of stores that may have a curiosity about BookExpo but didn’t really see it as something for them,” said event director Patti Stracher-Lee, who was VP and show director of the National Stationery Show for 25 years. “We know that there is a growing need for booksellers to build their sidelines business, and while there are shows out there for them to do that, that means another trip, another bunch of days out of the office.”

Book Expo runs from May 29th to the 31st this year. It’s followed by BookCon, a more consumer-focused two-day event in the first and second of June.

After a hiatus of several years, I plan to attend Book Expo this year. If you will be there, let me know. I’d love to meet for coffee.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. DaveMich5 February, 2019

    Who does this target? Because not long ago somebody put on something called “Winter Institute” in Albuquerque which appears to have targeted small booksellers. PW had a series of posts about it

    How many of the conferences can small booksellers attend, considering that many of them are just barely paying the rent?

    1. Nate Hoffelder5 February, 2019

      I’m really not sure. In past years I got the impression that the merch booths were more interested in selling than setting up distribution deals.

      Now that you mention it, I’m not sure I see the point of exhibiting in that section or going to the show to see that section. It’s $250 for attendees just to get in the door, but at most other trade shows like UnBound attendees can see the show floor for free. For example:

  2. Will Entrekin5 February, 2019

    I mean the expansion into merchandise besides books has seemed to work for Barnes & Noble, which is thriving in the current market, reporting an expanded customer base and increased revenue for the past several quarters, for sure.

  3. Mike Cane5 February, 2019

    Remember those days when there was a damn conference just about every frikkin month? Now they’re lucky just to have one…

    1. Nate Hoffelder5 February, 2019

      Oh, there are still lots of smaller local conferences. I have a bunch in my area.


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