This past week saw another virtual book fair “hit the e-shelves”, so to speak. After over a year of Covid, we are more than ready to return to normal, in-person book fairs! Here the Master and Commander of Tavistock Books, Vic Zoschak Jr., gives his opinion on the matter of virtual book fairs, the RBMS Booksellers’ Showcase in particular.
Well, that’s another one in the books. “What?”, you ask… that would be last week’s ABAA-RBMS VBF, held in conjunction with this year’s virtual RBMS conference. When in person, the ‘ABAA Booksellers’ Showcase’, as it is called when held attendant to the real event, the number of exhibitors is usually in the ~ 35 range, primarily due to physical limitations imposed by conference venue, so a positive for the 2021 rendition was the ability to expand the number of exhibitors that could participate, so in this instance I understand that approached 60 [or more?]. However, given this expansion, a question then comes to mind, did the size of the [revenue] pie stay the same, such that average sales per exhibitor decreased…?
I’ll never know the answer to that particular question, as others’ sales data is only anecdotal, and in this instance, results shared tended to mirror that of an actual book fair, which is to say, mixed. A few of those that did well are happy to publicly proclaim same. Those who have more modest results, more often than not, tend to stay silent. Tavistock Books, as well as a few more frank colleagues, reported ‘soft’ sales, i.e., for us, 5 items sold, which was 10% of our total listings. So hardly robust, but nevertheless, we were content to have a presence, keeping our name in front of the librarian community.
What about VBFs in general? My view… there seems to be a number of them every month these days, with Marvin Getman, bless his heart, the primary promoter hosting same. But as a result, I see a ‘devaluation’ taking place, somewhat mirroring the public’s view, and subsequent demise, of physical book fairs that took place over the last 2-3 decades. For example, I not only didn’t exhibit at Marvin’s last event, I didn’t shop it.
All this said, I recognize, this is just one bookseller’s view. And this bookseller is nearing the end of his career, so I acknowledge my ‘aggressiveness’ level in pursuing the VBF trade somewhat less than many others. Which is to say, this take of mine on VBFs may, or may not, represent the majority of the trade. But these views do represent me, and I’m looking forward to once again having the physical interaction that comes with real events.
With that in mind, see you in Oakland, February 2022.