A Matter of Perspective

Statistics are pretty interesting. Whether the numbers represent a good thing or a bad thing is really all in the way you choose to look at the facts as they're presented. I'll tell you what I mean:

On Friday, Publishers Weekly reported that
the number of verified attendees at BookExpo America, held last week in DC, was down this year. 22,366 compared with the 27,421 industry members who attended BEA in NYC in 2005. (Though higher than the 18,213 who attended in Chicago in 2004.)

The number of book buyers was down as well:
7,324 in 2006 from 7,701 in 2005 and 7,492 in 2004.

On the surface of things, any downward trend is bad, right? But there are other factors at work here. Do less attendees and less buyers also mean less books being flogged? (And, when I think about it, it would have been nice for PW to offer up those numbers, as well.) Since I keep hearing all these sky-is-falling-ish rants about the rising number of books being published (Authorgeddon is the latest catch-phrase getting bandied around. But don't get me started on that: it's a whole new rant). Do less attendees translate into few published books?

Come to think of it, though, it probably doesn't mean that at all. They key is in the host cities: the highest number of attendees showed up at the BEA held in New York. And why? Because they're mostly already there and so attending a cab fare and lunch. And DC is an easy shuttle from Book Central, whereas Chicago is the Midwest which means a bit more of a trip. Anyone still have the numbers from BEA Los Angeles in 2003? Though then you have to add in the palm tree and beach factor and it's a whole new thing.

By their very nature, numbers are fluid. You can make the 2006 BEA numbers a happy thing or a sad thing. The fact is, any way you slice it, a lot of people showed up.


Sandra Ruttan said…
Good points about the stats they didn't offer. Goes to the heart of Twain's quote about lies, damn lies and statistics. It doesn't give a fair picture. We see this locally with Word on the Street, because weather can be an obvious factor, as well as competing events OR if another book event is help in close proximity to annual events. Not to mention location and population would contribute to attendance as well, I would think.

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