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Book Expo America looks positive

18 June 2012

Last week’s BookExpo America in New York City seemed to show a resurgence amongst independent booksellers, until recently in steep decline. The American Booksellers Association reported that the number of member bookstores has increased from 1,512 to 1,567, and booksellers seem to have been voicing a new confidence about their role. Book buyer attendance was up 5% on last year.

On the last day of BEABookExpo America, commonly referred to within the book publishing industry as BEA. The largest annual book trade fair in the United States the public was allowed into the show for the first time in the form of "power readers". They seemed very keen on the free galleys on offer, but the publishers are less sure about this and perhaps it would work better as a separate day directed specifically at readers.

In the past the big publishers have sometimes been a bit muted in their support for the show, sometimes pulling out altogether to effect considerable economies. This year there seemed to be a new level of commitment around though. Penguin Group USA president Susan Petersen Kennedy said Penguin had invested more in this show than in recent years. "We want to embrace the whole thing," Kennedy said. "We want to see the show thrive."

Children’s books were selling strongly at the convention. They are still doing well in print editions, especially picture books and young adult novels. Print runs can still be enormous, like the 6.5 million copies just announced for Jeff Kinney’s latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid novel, which comes out in November.

There’s little sense from the reports of how much international business was done at the fair, but it seems that American publishers, having briefly seen BEA as a place for talking to the book business across the world, has more recently, with the recession and digitisation major preoccupations, been concentrating on its big domestic market – at least at BEA. It's good to report a positive convention though and the mood seems to have lifted with the improvement in the US economy.