We should’ve known BookCon was going to end up being a flailing mess when their lack of diverse panelists caused widespread criticism. But I think we all hoped it would turn out okay because they wound up with a great line-up and interesting panels. Boy, we were wrong.
The main problem with BookCon was the lack of organization. To begin, BEA exhibitor booths were spread out across two rooms of the Javits Center third floor, with one of the rooms designated for BookCon. The author Autographing Area was on the BookCon side, which caused a lot of chaos when Saturday rolled around and the estimated 9,000 BookCon attendees arrived in full force. The Autographing Area quickly became a mosh pit of sorts with a high possibility of being trampled. This caused confusion for both parties, especially since many BookCon attendees didn’t seem to be paying attention to how they needed to line-up or what to do in general. With all the pushing and shoving, it was like all the tourists from Times Square who forget the basic rules of walking and general manners were thrown into the Javits. Not fun.
Of course, the BookCon attendees aren’t to blame for everything. A bulk of the fault should lie with the organizers for not properly planning safety and organization measures to ensure everyone not only had a great time, but also a safe one. Jennifer from The Bawdy Book Blog took some video of the crowds and madness, which you can find here along with her thoughts on the event.
In general, it’s nice that BEA is becoming more consumer-friendly and opening its doors to those who wouldn’t be able to attend the show otherwise. The problem is that BookCon is an entirely new beast that has little to do with BEA. In the past, Saturday was called “Power Reader Day”, which kept BEA intact and allowed consumers to buy a day pass to join the fun. This worked out great because BEA went on as usual without all the fanfare of BookCon. By mixing BEA and BookCon events, it made it nearly impossible for anyone in either party to go to the events they wanted to, especially BEA-specific autographing sessions.
At this point, BookCon should and needs to be its own event, completely separate from BEA, especially if it’s going to expand into a four-day event like this Publishers Weekly article suggests. For one thing, if the two events became separate, organizers wouldn’t have to worry about overcrowding. Safety comes first, right? Right. And if organizers want to keep BEA and BookCon concurrent, then at least put them on different levels of the Javits. Many people have suggested BookCon utilize the entire basement level, which seems like a good suggestion.
Granted, this was BookCon’s first year of existence, but with New York Comic Con’s Lance Fensterman and ReedPOP in charge of it, I guess I expected less of a mess. If the rumors are true and BookCon expands to four days next year and it’s all kept in the same area, I probably won’t attend BEA at all, which makes me sad because I love BEA. But BookCon was such a horrendous disaster that I’d rather stay at home with my cats.
If you attended BEA and BookCon, let me know what you think in the comments!