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Book Expo, US Sales and Title Output

2 June 2003

This weekend the 2003 Book Expo (BEABookExpo America, commonly referred to within the book publishing industry as BEA. The largest annual book trade fair in the United States) convention in Los Angeles has brought together American publishers and booksellers with a contingent representing the rest of the world. Numbers appear to be steady in relation to last year, although the west coast venue always attracts fewer Europeans and more participants from Hollywood.

The first BEA Writers Conference saw the presentation of the inaugural annual John T Lupton awards for book proposals, with a value of $10,000 each. The non-fiction award went to Canadian Michael Boxall, for his 30-page proposal Driven by Desire: Sex and the Spread of the New Media. The fiction award went to New Yorker Anika Weiss's complete novel Moonshine Baby, about a plantation owner's daughter who learns that her older brother is black, and on death row.

BEA was also marked by the publication of conflicting statistics about American book sales. According to the BISG preview, generally regarded as producing the official figures, trade (or general) sales in 2002 are up 8.8% and mass market up 11.7% on the previous year, with unit sales showing a smaller increase of 4%. This may reflect poor sales in 2001. The Ipsos data, generally thought to provide a better measurement of behavioural changes, shows trade books purchased growing by just 1% per annum since 1999. This feels more accurate, in terms of anecdotal information about stagnating sales.

Slightly surprisingly, perhaps, Bowker figures show US title output increasing by 5.86% to a whopping 150,00 new titles and editions in 2002. But this overall increase masks a decline in title ouput of trade titles of 5.02%, while university presses increased their title output by 10.21%.