Support your local BEA

<p>BEA was slimmer and getting slimmer still.</p>
<p>The economy is in big trouble; ditto publishers; ditto bricks-and-mortar bookstores. We are in a period of change but nobody knows where we are going or how to manage it, and everybody knows that while change brings opportunity for some, for others it brings failure. Whither BEA in all this?</p>
<p>Even though word quickly got around Javits Center about publishing prognosticator (and perennial bookfair lover) Mike Shatzkin's betting pool to predict the year of the show's demise (2012, anyone?), reports of that likely demise are, many conversations from the show floor attest, somewhat exaggerated.</p>
<p>It is not exactly like predicting that print will be dead in a few years (I have every confidence that, whatever happens to BEA, books in printed form will continue in some kind of symbiotic relationship with digital), but still, it is on that gloom-and-doom continuum (and we are an industry that has always loved to gossip gloom-and-doom).</p>
<p>In the early days of what started as the ABA meetings in Philadelphia and then Washington, it was all a lot smaller, more intimate, and focused; it ballooned as the industry ballooned in the glory days of huge paperback sales, the rollout of chain and mall bookstores all across the country, and TV (not just Oprah) as a hugely effective selling tool. I remember the parties in the late 1980s and early 1990s &ndash; they were phenomenal things to behold, planned with an art and an expense account to rival the greatest of weddings.</p>
<p>Today's book business is the same business and a different business entirely. As long as many book people find an essential value in meeting in the physical rather than the virtual sphere (why else would virtualmeisters O'Reilly et al be convening profitable new annual conferences like TOC?), BEA can continue &ndash; if it gets things right. The point is, if there is to be an annual industry meeting on American soil on a scale to coexist with LBF and Frankfurt, BEA will have to be nimble enough, flexible enough, and far-sighted enough to turn itself into that meeting &ndash; and the industry will have to support it.</p>