Saturday, March 29, 2014

Discussion: BookCon (formerly Power Reader Day) at BEA

All right folks let's get some information out there and boost the signal (so to speak) to maybe mitigate the misinformation. (Update 4-23: I included a link to BookRiot's thought-provoking piece about how BookCon is being handled, as well as an update on the registration thing)

Two years ago BookExpo America (BEA) implemented their "consumer" day known as the Power Reader Day.  It was meant as a chance for every day passionate readers, not bloggers necessarily or industry related people, to have a chance to join in the fun that is BEA.  It was met with varying levels of wariness and muted excitement.

To be frank there was a lot of mismanagement and bad handling of that first year.  Registration was confusing, picking up badges was insane, there was little to no guidance for the Power Readers so they didn't understand the "basics" of BEA and since no rules were given to them there was a lot of bad behavior that could have been avoided.  The second year (last year) was handled better--there was an orientation of sorts, a packet handed out with information and a better understanding of what a "Power Reader" was.

There was still bad behavior, though honestly it wasn't completely limited to their group, and there was a growing discontent amongst the publishers AND attendees about the Power Readers.  Some of them were lovely, wonderful people.  I spoke with a few in lines and answered their questions whenever they seemed confused.*  But its never the wonderful ones who get the light its the pushy, entitled, rude ones who do.  And there were some that just did not take a hint.

This year's Power Reader Day was met with the same level of trepidation and wariness amongst my friends, though we were doing our hardest to help educate anyone who expressed an interest.  Registration opened and Power Reader Day was an option.

A few days ago those who registered as a Power Reader received an email announcing the change over to "BookCon".  Information was at first scarce and jumbled.  Information is still rather scarce and jumbled as different reps are explaining things different ways.

Those of us who are obsessively linked into the BEA culture knew something would happen this year.  Its rather what BEA does; a sudden change is announced halfway to the conference and it leaves many of us floundering.  Usually it effects bloggers however--the change to the rules for bloggers, the BEA Bloggers changeover--so there's more discussion.  This change for Power Readers does not, to put it bluntly, effect bloggers.

Many of us have already (or are in the process of) registered as a blogger (or press).  For us BEA changing Power Reader Day to BookCon does not seem like something we need to worry over.  However because of this change it does effect us by proxy.

This is cut out of the exhibit hall floor plan.  If you look at the bottom right corner of 2577 you'll see a red dotted line that continues downwards.  That's the "consumer" line.  Everything to the Left is the "BookCon" area and everything to the right is not available to them.  2577 is the "autographing" table area and the teal-green area is where Publishers on the other half of the Consumer Line can set up smaller booths for BookCon on Saturday.

If you zoom in you can see some of the bigger publishers on that side:

Outside the Consumer Line:
Harper, MacMillian, Lerner, Penguin, Sourcebooks and Bloomsbury

Inside the Line:
Disney, Little Brown, Harlequin, Random House, "Simon & Schuster" and Spencer Hill

For Thursday/Friday this isn't a big deal.  Saturday is the big deal day as that's "BookCon".  As any veteran attendee knows the last day is usually the "quietest", though even that is relative.  The exhibit hall closes up earlier (3pm instead of 5pm) and many publishers will start closing up shop by 1:30pm (signings usually ended around 1pm at the Tables and between 1-2 for the booths).  By having the autographing area inside the Line however, it has the potential to become a large tangled web.

In the Publishers Weekly article Lance Fensterman says he "[...] is aiming to draw 10,000 visitors to BookCon this year".  BEA pass holders have access to that area, while BookCon holders can only stay in that area (of the Exhibit Hall, there are panels set up as well outside the Hall).  BEA suffers from having too much crowded into the space it uses already--the autographing table area especially.

That's 10,000 people cordoned off in one area with the possibility (and likelihood) of thousands others walking in and out.

Here's what we don't know:
+ How they will handle checking badges - on Saturday if the BookCon people can't come into the other part of the Exhibit Hall how will they check?  Will it be like when we enter, security guards checking for our badges?  How will that effect those of us who tend to ping pong back and forth between the Autographing Tables and the Booths?
+ How much books will cost - I'll pay for books. Especially if they're not out yet (not ARCs but early finished copies) or I can get a really good deal.  Hell my first BEA I thought I had to pay for them! But will there be discounts like at ALA where you can get a finished not yet released hardcover for $5 (instead of $29)?  Will it be retail?  Will there be a discounting structure all publishers adhere to?
+ Honoring the before Announcement Power Reader Registrants - in the BEA Goodreads group, one participant mentioned that their friend had received assurances that if they registered for PRDay before January they'd have all the same perks as last year. Um huh?  So the people who registered in good faith days before the announcement won't have those perks? There is no "before the announcement" vs. after registration--if you registered for Saturday May 31st as a Power Reader you are officially designated as a BookCon attendee and thus do not have the same access as BEA badge holders.
+ Why the 11th Hour announcement? - Much like with the original announcement for Power Readers this BookCon announcement came out of the blue with little to no warning.  Why?  Why offer the Power Reader option then snatch it away 3 months later?

Here's what we do know:
+ Clarification of "business to business" - in the official FAQ for BookCon it states "What Fans won’t have access to are the “Business to Business” oriented booths that don’t have any content for fans".  Jessica (of the Midnight Bookworm) explained "business to business" this way:
The "business to business" are generally the vendors that are there, from the book industry (physical books or digital things or like Google Play will have a booth), that don't actually have any books with them that you can have. They're there to sell things on site or make contacts with people who will eventually buy their products, not give out samples like publishers do with ARCs. Those booths are useless to the general public as they're not looking to make contact with the general public since it's usually selling things on a wholesale level. 
That should be made more abundantly clear on the official FAQ of course, but that's why there's all of us.
+ Who is on which side of the "Consumer Line" - pretty much everyone listed in booth 2500 on up is on the "BookCon" side and everyone 2499 and down is part of the regular Exhibit Hall. Booths 2865 to 3153 are pretty much the "satellite" publisher booths so those on the other side of the divide can set up shop (on Saturday only) on that side as well.  We do not know who will have a satellite booth yet however.
+ Power Reader Day was an "experiment" - I don't think Rosato meant this as bad as it sounds (in the official BEAN blog post on the subject of BookCon), but I'm not sure you can count this as part of that "experiment" since the entire structure is different.  Power Readers had access to the WHOLE exhibit Hall floor.  BookCon attendees are only getting a small portion of that.  And while they claim that "All of the publisher booths and content that is a core part of BEA will be available on the BookCon Show Floor." this is misleading as attendees will only have access to the stuff publishers wish to show them on their side of the divide. 

Other People's Posts -

A few people have made other blog posts on the subject, so I thought I'd highlight them as we have several different opinions across the board.

- My Life in Books: Why BEA and BookCon Make Me a Rage Monster 
Christina is not happy.  She paid for her ticket in good faith expecting to have access to BEA and the industry opportunities therein, not to have limited access to a section where the publishers will be selling their books and less networking opportunities.

- Nicole Wolverton: BEA vs BookCon: What's the Difference?
Nicole takes a much more cautious attitude with the changes made.   She takes a much more practical view of the changes, though she is disappointed in how "BookCon" is being sold as.

- Wands and Worlds: My thoughts on BEA and BookCon
Sheila is relieved (happy even) that the feedback she offered last year to Reed was taken into consideration.  She understands that Reed is attempting to give "passionate readers" more opportunity for what they want without having to wad through sections that don't pertain to them.

- BookRiot: Readers Deserve Better Than BookCon
Rebecca of BookRiot discusses the announcements and the problematic nature of how ReedPop is handling BookCon in general (from their "marketing" to their "guest lists" to their overall message).

More Official Announcements:

- the BEAN (official BEA blog): And Then BookCon was born....
- Publishers Weekly: BookCon to make Debut at BEA
- BookCon Official Press Release

So tell me, how do you all feel?  Does anyone have any more information?  Please feel free to fact check me on anything I said above, I'm not perfect and I may have misunderstood something.

(*) despite my sarcastic exterior I do genuinely enjoy helping people with their BEA journeys