Observations at BEA 2011

I just returned from the 2011 edition of BookExpo America (BEA), North America’s largest gathering of book trade professionals. BEA is organized with the support of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the American Booksellers Association (ABA), and it always attracts an international audience.

Attending major publishing conferences and trade shows such as BEA always helps me to feel the pulse of the industry. There’s nothing quite like walking the exhibit floor and sitting in on various conference sessions to really hear what is on the minds of executives and to track what the latest developments are in the marketplace.

This year, I detected a clear shift from last year in one important trend: publishers are clearly moving from a reactive to a proactive attitude when it comes to their digital publishing strategies.

In past years, publishers would send various employees to attend shows such as BEA, listen to what was being said, digest that information, and then take it back with them for discussion with their colleagues. However, more often than not, that’s pretty much where things ended. But this year, these professionals came with specific agendas for what they wanted to learn, brought their decision makers with them, and were clearly ready to take action on the information they gathered at BEA.

Another interesting thing that stood out to me at BEA this year was the increased size of the “Digital Book Zone” at this year’s event — which included 17 booths and 16 kiosks in 5,000 square feet of space, not including Google, Amazon, and HP, all of whom had substantial booths outside the Digital Book Zone. Clearly, we have more and more companies showcasing their products, and it’s very interesting to see the various start-ups with unique technologies and products. During the show, we all heard about announcements made by Amazon and other companies regarding the significant rise in eBook sales versus print sales.

With BEA 2011 behind us, it will be interesting to see how publishers respond to Amazon’s dominance with their new publishing division, Amazon Publishing. While our position is neutral, we have always maintained that publishers need to take control of their digital infrastructure so they can build direct relationships with their end customer – rather than let retailers own those relationships.

It’s a good feeling to know that iPublishCentral is regarded as one of the “short list” options that publishers consider when they look for a technology platform to support their digital publishing strategies. At BEA, we received warm feedback everywhere we went from folks who consider Impelsys to be true thought leaders in the industry.

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