Fairs | February 2009 | Ian J. Kahn

Quick reflections on the San Fran. ABAA Fair

For our first California ABAA fair, this was quite the adventure. Our books made an inexplicable side trip to Portland, OR. While undoubtedly exciting for our cases, it made the otherwise fun lead-up to the fair very tense. We spent the day at Serendipity Books, enjoying Peter B's hospitality (and great food). I know we were not the only ones more than paid for our food and drink with books. It was great fun. 

Our books arrived the day the show opened. As I am (pathetically) one who takes upwards of 10 hours to set up a booth, this could have been a very bad thing. Luckily, we had used the prior day to at least have all the booth infrastructure in place, so it was really just an issue of getting the books on shelves and more or less grouped as I wanted. Not only were we able to be done in time for the opening, but I was even able to go back to our (close) hotel and get changed in relative comfort.

The fair itself was quite remarkable. It is, for those who have never made the trek, in an old railway station...reasonably wide and very long. According to the careful measurements of Rob Rulon-Miller, there were approximately 2.5 football fields worth of book dealers. It is really hard to imagine the number of dealers...or the scope of material...present at the fair. The only downside to this rather remarkable hall is that a large portion of the space is under a arched roof that, while aesthetically appealing is not, entirely, waterproof. While I think this may not be a problem under normal "gentle rain" conditions...it became one in the steady and at times torrential rains we saw and it was an issue for a reasonable number of dealers. There are few things sadder than seeing a dealer on their knees using a hair drier on the top of a set of books... They did manage to get plastic up (see image) and I think actual losses were kept to a minimum (I certainly hope so...). A good argument for insurance...

The rain certainly did not keep people away. The crowds seemed steady, engaged and looking to buy. We were very pleased and heard similarly from several other dealers. The only real lull we saw was Saturday afternoon around 5pm when, inexplicably, there was a "cocktail party" down at the far end. I am a great fan of free wine and cheese...after the show. I am not certain I see value, as a dealer, in having an event *during* show hours that is designed to draw people *out* of the booksellers booths...but perhaps that is just me. Mind you, I am a huge supporter of seminars/classes during shows, but these tend be shorter in duration and draw away smaller numbers than free wine. Shocking, I know.

We found some great material, both for clients and for stock...and a great deal more that I will just have to covet from afar for now. It was great seeing and/or meeting people, dealers, collectors and librarians. It is this last element that no other means venue can compare...sure you can sell books in a shop, online, through catalogues and/or through face to face meetings...but nothing compares to the energy and fun of a good fair. Seeing old friends, meeting new ones and, of course, so many books in one place. Just a great weekend.

There are/will be additional posts regarding the events (e.g. sure to be annual "young members find a bar" event), personal travails and culinary adventures over at the Lux Blog if one is so inclined. There will undoubtedly be addition posts here about the fair as well (as soon as everyone else gets their log-in information).
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