BookExpo, the largest annual book trade fair in the United States, is being "retired" in its current format, organiser ReedPop has announced, with in-person events being taken off the table for 2021 owing to the pandemic.
Neither BookExpo, fan-based BookCon or merchandise-based UnBound will take place in 2021, according to ReedPop, the popular culture event–focused subdivision of Reed Exhibitions that has managed BookExpo for 25 years.
It explained that planning a "productive, cost effective and safe" in-person event for 2021 is "unfortunately not possible based on the current environment". Due to "continued uncertainty surrounding in-person events at this time," it said, "the best way forward is to retire the current iteration of events as they explore new ways to meet the community’s needs through a fusion of in-person and virtual events".
In 2020 the coronavirus forced the cancellation of BookExpo, BookCon, and UnBound; despite being "initially optimistic" the events could run in late July, it was announced in April that 2020 was "no longer a viable option" and virtual events were held for BookExpo and BookCon instead.
But although the BookExpo, BookCon, and UnBound events will retire in their prior iterations and will not take place in 2021, the intention is that the shows will "re-emerge in the future in a format that delivers better value to our customers with a blend of in-person and virtual offerings".
A statement from Reed event director Jennifer Martin read: "The pandemic arrived at a time in the lifecycle of BookExpo and BookCon where we were already examining the restructure of our events to best meet our community’s needs.
"This has led us to make the difficult decision to retire the events in their current formats, as we take the necessary time to evaluate the best way to move forward and rebuild our events that will better serve the industry and reach more people than we were able to before. We remain committed to serving the book community and look forward to sharing more information in the future."
The American Booksellers Association's c.e.o. Allison K Hill said the retirement of BookExpo "feels like the end of an era". "ABA is exploring new ways to bring booksellers, publishers, and authors together in the future," she said. "For now, we’ll keep bringing everyone together virtually."
In response to the development, Penguin Random House c.e.o. Markus Dohle said he hoped such industry events would happen again. "Among the many traditions we greatly missed this year was having an industry event that brings together booksellers authors and publishers," he said. "In this virtual world, Penguin Random House is continuously investing in innovative ways to connect our community members with one another, and we look forward to working with our industry partners to explore a newly imagined event where we all can come together to celebrate books and their essential role in our society and culture."