Brooklyn Is Hosting Book Sellers As Authors Flock to the Borough

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The New York Sun

Jonathan Safran Foer moves to Brooklyn, and before you know it, all the independent bookstore proprietors in the country are following him there like camels to water.

Well, at least they will for a few days next summer, when the American Booksellers Association brings about a thousand of them to a hotel near the Brooklyn Bridge for the publishing industry’s annual BookExpo America convention.

The industrywide conference is a busy, four-day affair during which about 20,000 publishing executives, writers, and merchants preview new books, hear lectures, and talk shop with their colleagues.

The ABA, which represents thousands of small bookstore owners across the country, likes as many of its members as possible to stay in one place during the convention.

The last time BookExpo came to New York City, in 2005, the ABA held its massive slumber party at the Park Central Hotel in Midtown Manhattan — just two miles from the Javits Center, where the actual convention took place. But for June 1–3, 2007, the ABA announced this week, its weekend headquarters will move five miles away to Brooklyn on account of the climbing hotel rates within Manhattan.

ABA officials declined to say which hotel they have chosen, because negotiations over pricing have not been finalized. But some booksellers across the country are already somewhat wary about the commute to and from Brooklyn.

“I would probably get a hotel in Manhattan,” said Gary Hunt, the owner of Iconoclast Books in Ketchum, Idaho. “Coming from way out of town, I don’t want to be doing a lot of internal taxi drives and subways and things like that. I’d rather walk, or at least be closer to the action. I wouldn’t stay in a hotel in Brooklyn if I was going to be in New York for three or four days.”

Chris Doehblin, owner of Labyrinth Books in Manhattan, said the Brooklyn plan sounded “absurd,” and that he will recommend his out-of-town bookseller friends find their own accommodations.

“A lot of booksellers have pretty strong relationships with other booksellers, and they’ll want to see them, but they’ll also want to be with some of the people from the other side of the industry, who might be more accessible in Manhattan,” Mr. Doehblin said. The ABA “might be shooting themselves in the foot.”

But ABA’s chief operating officer, Oren Teicher, said the Brooklyn option was the best bet in light of the high rates for hotel rooms in Manhattan. “We’re dealing with a constituency of independent businesspeople who come to the convention on their own dime,” he said. “With rates 100% higher than they’ve been in the past, we feared we wouldn’t have anywhere near the kind of attendance that we hope to have.”

In 2005, ABA members paid $149 per night for their rooms in Park Central, and according to Mr. Teicher, they would have to shell out well over $200 next summer if the “ABA Hotel” remained in Manhattan. “Last year, in D.C., it was $129. When we looked to find a comparable property in Manhattan for 2007, we weren’t even close. We were twice those rates at minimum.”

Besides, downtown Brooklyn is not so far from the Javits Center as to discourage merchants, Mr.Teicher said. Indeed, there are incentives to flying with the flock: if you stay in the official ABA hotel, you are invited to attend exclusive after-hours meals and in-house events with writers and industry reps, and you get to spend time with people in your line of work. One popular event, named after Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast,” resembles a dating game, with authors rotating around a room and talking to booksellers for 10 minutes each before moving on. Many bookstore owners said the location of the ABA home base did not make much difference to them.

“It’s fine with me,” said Steve Ashley, owner of the Valley Bookstore in Jackson, Wyoming. “On the other hand, I live in Wyoming. I couldn’t tell you what the difference is. I don’t know how far away that is. It’s moot until I actually sit down and Google it or something.”

The New York Sun

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