This weekend I was introduced to the North Texas Book & Paper show held this year in Grapevine, Texas. I understand from talking to several of the dealers that the show has graduated over the years from being a more exclusively rare book and Texas show to one with a large portion of the dealers offering a broad array of first editions.
I think specialty shows like this have a great future. Like the entire industry, new technology will continue to change them, however. One thing I was happy to see was a book dealer prominently displaying a QR Code image at his table. I believe this was a company called MookMarc’s.
The code was being used to take visitors from the show directly to the dealer’s web site. Use of this technology can expand farther, being used to provide additional information on higher-end items.
While there is potential in new technologies, the problem I see facing these shows is also comes from technology, specifically items available online. Other copies of the first editions are available elsewhere and its easy to check the price with a smart phone. From the ones I checked, there weren’t too many at the show that beat the online price. Yes, this is hurting shows and objects in most every category that have like items or are based in production.
As for the rare books, they were not always available online. Having the show navigate towards things that are available online may not be the best way to go. Anything offered at shows must be in exceptional condition, have some unique feature such as a signature and inscription, be rare, or be competitive with items of similar condition offered elsewhere.
Fortunately or unfortunately dealers at shows are now faced not only with competing with dealers in the next booth, but for many items competing with many other dealers in the world- even within the confines of that show. Like it or not, I don’t see it changing.
Harnessing technology, using the show as a promotion vehicle, and taking the customer from the show online where more product is available, just as the dealer using the QR Code was doing, is the way to go.
While technology does mean there is more competition for dealers, there is also an infinitely broader market for dealers than there was a few short years ago.