Book Expo America, the annual book festival that promotes virtually every major publisher in America, and most smaller ones, announced some changes yesterday: basically, that the show is going to be held in New York City exclusively for the forseeable future, and midweek beginning in 2010. The move was purportedly made to keep costs down for "the major publishers." Which is great if you're a giant corporation based in NYC, but ignores one salient fact: NYC is actually a more expensive place to visit than just about anywhere if you are a publisher or bookseller who doesn't already live in NY. And contrary to what Reed seems to think, there are plenty of us who fit that description.
Paul Constant tiptoes around some of this in a Stranger blog post this morning that I mostly agree with, but I'll spell it out more clearly: Chicago or Vegas (to give two examples) are actually way better level playing fields if the goal is to keep costs down for the industry as a whole, and not just Reed Business and those "major publishers" Reed seems so concerned about.
The BEA in NYC is often insufferable when it opens on a weekday, when every "major publisher" staffer and intern and freelancer who would otherwise never in a million years get sent to BEA in any official capacity is in attendance, either as an excuse to get out of the office or to simply acquire Free Shit. This is not a means to an efficient end.
If Reed wants to attract the widest possible base of all arms of the publishing and bookselling world, it should continue to move around. There are publishers you see at a Los Angeles BEA that you would never see at a NYC BEA, and vice-versa. I presume the BEA has always moved around because this was seen as a good thing, being as inclusive as possible.
This latest announcement is part of a recent trend by Reed Business to seemingly consolidate the entirety of North American publishing into a few major New York City corporations, as seen by its recent cancellation of Book Expo Canada, the largely uninspired New York Comicon, and the latest announcement that Vegas and D.C. are off the table for BEA.
I understand cost-cutting measures, but when seemingly every cost-cutting measure Reed engages in either costs a small publisher like us more money, or simply threatens the greater good of all, and then tries to spin it as a Good Thing, I bristle. We are constantly told we live in an increasingly borderless world, and yet as a publisher, it's sometimes hard to believe.
We'll still continue to exhibit at BEA, it's an important show for us, and New York is always a great place to visit (even if the Javits Center isn't) but let's be clear: this is not about cutting costs for anyone but Reed Business, and the result will do little but enable corporate hegemony at all levels of the book world.
UPDATE: "Enable" is probably too strong a word. "Facilitate"? Anyway, this isn't that big of a deal except I was simply annoyed to read today that BEA will be in the most expensive city in the country for the forseeable future so that Random House or Doubleday can save some money. That struck me as a very Bush administration way of addressing the new economic climate.