So this past week, BEA took place again in New York and, walking around the floor, I was more aware than ever of all the changes that have occurred and continue to take place in our business. This is far from those first meetings I attended so many years ago at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington. It is also incredibly distant from the heady years where the show, held in Los Angeles, or Las Vegas or even New Orleans included multi-level booths, every bell and whistle imaginable and parties that were incredibly over-the-top. Julie Bosman’s article in The New York Times described some other interesting changes
This year, the space itself was noticeably smaller than last year (and recent years past) with fewer exhibitors. And despite the fact that we attended on “opening day” the crowds and excitement seemed diminished.
The fact of the matter is that our business is going through some real upheavals. E-book sales continue to grow and this is pushing down the number of physical books sold. The mass market distribution system has almost totally collapsed and so those categories previously published in mass market are either not being published or are being published exclusively online. The Department of Justice lawsuit has distracted everyone and if the settlement isn’t overturned or changed, the future of independent bookstores could be in jeopardy because they simply will not be able to compete against Amazon. Self-publishing online is becoming far more “acceptable” and many writers are beginning to make a very good living doing this. And then there are those of us who are helping in the self-publishing/e-book publishing process and establishing new branches of our business in order to keep up with the times.
Indeed, walking around the hall, I heard many who were genuinely worried about the future of our industry. But then there are others of us who are excited about the innovation that is taking place. Yes, many of these changes are challenging, but I am personally delighted to face them and see what we can do to help our clients understand and deal with them – and ultimately benefit from them. I think the only way to go forward at this point, is not to look back at any mistakes our industry has made and move forward to make sure the book, in whatever format, continues to thrive and that writers are encouraged to produce new and exciting material.
Most of all, we cannot forget that one of the reasons we are in this business is that our colleagues, by and large, are truly a great group, and that we all have the same goals in common. Remembering this will make our work going forward more satisfying…if not easier. I, for one, am looking toward many more BEAs and an exciting new world of publishing.