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.