Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Not Much Surprise About BookExpo Canada’s Demise

Though some media are acting surprised by Reed Exhibitions’ pulling the plug on their BookExpo Canada event in June and others are chalking it up to yet another bite from a hungry economy, it seems to me that the answer is somewhat more simple. The book industry in Canada never seemed that comfortable with the Reed-run events, which were always essentially little more than smaller, lamer versions of Reed’s big U.S. book event.

The fact is, the Canadian book industry is different than the one that serves the American market. There are some important differences in both the culture of the book industry in both countries as well as the culture itself. Who would even imagine that simply scaling down and laming up a formula that works well in one country is going to work in another, different one? The idea defies logic.

I never heard anyone going into raptures about BookExpo Canada, the way some exhibitors and attendees can about the U.S. event. In fact, the reverse was true: you’d hear lots of grumbling and dissatisfaction and not a lot of scurrying about on the Reed end to put things right.

Like many of the book industry shifts that are being attributed to the economy, the end of BookExpo Canada is happening now, but it was a long time coming and no one I’ve talked to sound either very surprised or exceedingly disappointed.

Part of this is due the fact that good things are on the horizon: things that make sense in this economy and the culture of the Canadian market. Bookbrunch UK talked to Kim McArthur, “the effervescent founder and President and Publisher of McArthur & Company,” who said she was in favor of an event modeled on the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute. Says McArthur:
It was really impressive -- two days of educational seminars for booksellers, with a keynote breakfast with industry leaders (Morgan Entrekin of Grove Atlantic, Bob Miller of Hyperion, Nan Graham of Scribners). Participating publishers of all sizes, from the smallest indie to the largest multinational, had two rounds of ‘speed dating,’ pitching their spring lists to the 500 booksellers in attendance, going from table to table where the booksellers were sitting.
McArthur even feels it may still be possible to organize a Canadian event for this year.

According to Publishers Weekly, Susan Dayus, executive director of the Canadian Booksellers Association, said she still believes “there is a need for a national gathering of booksellers, publishers, authors and others connected to the book industry.”
She said the CBA is looking at the possibility of launching a new event this year. She noted that the association had always held its annual general meeting in conjunction with a convention and said the CBA will immediately begin exploring the feasibility of putting some sort of show together, but was uncertain what form it would take.
The Bookbrunch article is here. The PW piece is here.



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