BEA to BookCon: What’s the Difference?

Discontent is brewing, and for once it has nothing to do with the constant snow.

For those of us who love books and/or are involved in the publishing industry in some way, BookExpoAmerica (BEA) is the mothership. It’s a place for discovery–booksellers, librarians, and book bloggers get to find out what titles are forthcoming; and it’s a place for networking within the industry and meeting writers. Last year I attended as a writer. I signed copies of THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS on one day, and I took the train back up to NY for their Power Reader Day with a friend. I had a great time, met some fabulous people, and I was able to lay hands on some ARCs that I had an interest in, the vast majority of which I reviewed on Amazon and/or Goodreads or talked about here on the site or on Twitter or Facebook.

This year I bought a ticket to the Power Reader Day only because I don’t have a book fresh out or forthcoming this year. That was a few weeks ago. Today, out of the blue, an email arrived in my inbox telling me that Power Reader Day doesn’t exist anymore. Instead, my Power Reader Day ticket is being converted to a BookCon ticket.

Emma-Watson-Shock-LookWhat? That was . . . abrupt.

The email didn’t really have much information about the difference. Power Reader Day no longer exists on the BEA website. But on the BookCon website, it very clearly states that the BookCon is separate event entirely from BEA, and while you can attend BookCon if you have a BEA ticket, you can cannot enter BEA with a BookCon ticket. But still, not much information about what is different at BookCon versus BEA.

There’s buzz about it on Twitter, but a lot of people seem unconcerned . . . as long as BookCon is not any different than BEA and what we were expecting from Power Reader Day.

Not to be a downer, but BookCon doesn’t really sound like BEA’s Power Reader Day at all:

[Lance] Fensterman [the guy in charge] said BookCon will have little resemblance to the “power reader” events that BEA ran on the final day of the trade show for the past two years. “It will be a whole new ball game,” Fensterman explained, adding that ReedPop will use its experience building events that appeal to a younger, non-trade demographic–specifically those between the ages of 20 and 35–in crafting BookCon.

Uh, well, okay. Leaving out the part where BookCon basically blows off those over the age of 35, what exactly does all that mean? Neither BEA nor BookCon seem to be answering any questions on Twitter, but an AP article says it will “include panel discussions, podcasts, interviews and quiz shows” and another article [first link] says “publishers will be allowed to give away, and sell, titles from their booths, and from the autographing areas.”

BEA has traditionally had panel discussions and autograph opportunities, but selling booksscully to attendees? Yeah, there has always been a component of sales (both librarians and booksellers placing orders and vendors who sell used books and book/reading-related trinkets), but the big draw has always been free ARCs and free book copies available in the signing areas.* While publishers will be “allowed” to offer giveaways, it sounds as though there’s a bigger emphasis on sales. Eh, that’s not what I go to BEA for. If I want to buy books, I’ll buy books where I normally do–either at independent book stores or online. All the podcasts, interviews, and quiz shows in the world don’t make it worth my while to travel to NY simply to buy books at a convention.

The headliners so far for BookCon–Amy Poehler, Martin Short, John Grisham, and Stan Lee–well, it’s a nice touch, but I didn’t even go to the panel discussions last year at BEA. I had too much fun on the floor looking at all the glorious books that were coming out. And not for nothing, but the only writer in there is Grisham. The BookCon website says there are other authors to be signed. All in all, BookCon sounds quite different from BEA’s Power Reader Day, and the fact that they randomly announced the change weeks after I bought my ticket (months after others bought their tickets) feels a bit, well, wrong.**

I hope I’m wrong about BookCon, and it’s every bit as wonderful as BEA’s Power Reader Day. I also hope that BookCon and BEA clear things up about the differences. Because right now it’s looking a little bait and switch-y.


UPDATE (3/27/14): A rep from BookCon that I’ve been emailing with is adamant that BookCon will be just like BEA but without the “business-to-business” booths. It’s supposed to be a “greatly expanded” experience. I was offered a refund on my ticket, but it sounds as though there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that Power Reader Day tickets (those bought before the announcement yesterday) will be honored at BEA. That’s a shame. I plan to keep my ticket to BookCon in the hopes that my experience will be as fabulous and wondrous as the rep says it will.

Reaction from others about BookCon/BEA:

*Now, I know that there’s been some friction between librarians/book sellers and book bloggers/readers when it comes to those free copies. The first year book bloggers were allowed into BEA, there were quite a few complaints about how bloggers gobbled up free copies to the degree that librarians and book sellers weren’t able to obtain the things they wanted/needed. Last year there were a few titles that had a limited number of copies, but it seemed like it was done by design. Overall, it seemed like there were an overabundance of ARCs, and everyone got what they needed. I didn’t hear any complaints about it last year, at least.

**I’m hoping the BEA people honor the tickets of everyone who bought Power Reader tickets prior to the announcement today. It only seems fair, especially since it seems as though they’ve set themselves up for a great deal of liability by giving those who bought tickets something far, far different from what was purchased.

Mar 26, 2014 | Events, News | 19 comments