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Reed Expo Closes the Book on BookExpoAmerica

COVID-19 has claimed one more elderly victim.

Reed Expo, the parent company of BookExpoAmerica, NY ComicCon, and other trade shows, has announced that they are killing BookExpo, BookCon, and UnBound.

Dear BookExpo attendees,

We hope when you read this email that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.

During the past eight months, the impact of COVID-19 has been felt in both our personal lives and the way we do business. It has forced all of us to navigate a new landscape, and sadly forced all of us to say goodbye to many beloved businesses. At the same time, we have seen glimmers of hope and ingenuity, as Bookstores, Retailers, Librarians, and Educators find new and creative ways to serve their communities.

COVID-19 forced us to cancel our in-person BookExpo, BookCon, and UnBound 2020 events. While we missed not seeing old friends and colleagues in person, there was no doubt that this was the correct choice. BookExpo Online brought us together virtually to celebrate our love of books and remind us that there are other, new ways to gather to support the stories and community we hold dear.

As we look toward 2021, we are all wondering what the world will look like. As Event Director, I am tasked with the challenge of how and when to gather the industry together in a manner that is productive, cost effective, and safe. Together with the management team, we have reached the conclusion that planning an in-person event for 2021 is unfortunately not possible based on the current environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic arrived at a time in the life cycle of BookExpo where we were already examining restructuring our events to best meet our community’s needs. The Trade industry has evolved so much in the past decade, and it has long been apparent that BookExpo needs to reflect those changes.

What does that mean for the future? It means we need to pause, review, and rebuild. The BookExpo, BookCon, and UnBound events in their prior iterations will retire and will not take place in 2021. It is our intention that the shows will re-emerge in the future in a format that delivers better value to our customers with a blend of in-person and virtual offerings. These new events will be built upon the tremendous successes and learnings of the past year’s virtual initiatives. We will no longer be limited by geolocation and we will be able to connect this industry through multiple touch points throughout the year.

The thing about BEA is that it was half-dead already. As Reed said in their statement, the trade show had long since stopped being relevant. I had not attended since the year before the show was held in Chicago, and I was only planning to go this year so I could spend a week in NYC as a vacation. (I did have a plan for networking with publishers, but the vacation was the deciding factor.)

If you live within driving distance of a major metro area, the odds are very good that there already was a event you could go to which filled the same needs as BEA. (Between DC, Richmond, and Maryland, I am blessed with around 50 such events.)

Really, the only reason BEA was big was that book publishing industry was concentrated in NYC.

But given how the industry has been decentralizing over the past 15 years (thanks to the internet, there’s no reason to pay for expensive real estate or operating costs any more) it was only a matter of time before BEA lost all relevance.

The death of this trade show was really only a matter of time.

P.S. If it does come back, I would bet that we will see it revived as smaller local trade shows and conferences – you know, events you could go to in the middle of your work day, and not as a business trip.

image by Military Truck Guy via Flickr

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