We can save until another day the debate over why it took Book Expo America so long to face up to the reality that the July event was not going to happen.

Per numerous posts here at TNPS, the very suggestion of holding the USA’s biggest publishing event in May, later postponed until July, in the Javits Centre, currently being used as an emergency hospital in the world’s worst hit city, New York, as a global pandemic is about to cross the 2 million infections mark, with 125,000 dead, was unthinkable.

But as the US coronavirus death toll topped 23,000, it seems even the BEA team had to face reality.

In a statement on their website a few hours ago the BEA management team said:

Due to the escalation of COVID-19 globally, Reed Exhibitions has today announced that the next edition of BookExpo, UnBound and BookCon will now take place in the spring of 2021.

Initially, we were optimistic that our events could run in late July. However, as the pandemic has continued to escalate in the United States and we see the challenges it has brought for the book industry, it is clear that 2020 is no longer a viable option for this community.

We have worked closely with the venue, hotel community and contractors to identify workable new dates. Unfortunately, the available options do not meet the necessary criteria to support the business needs of our industry. This lead us to make the difficult decision to wait until 2021 to deliver a vibrant BookExpo, UnBound and BookCon.

While we cannot move forward with a physical event in 2020, we are finding new and different ways to connect our exhibitors, attendees and readers to celebrate books virtually, and we look forward to coming back stronger in 2021. We stand with you and we will do everything we can in the coming months to highlight your business, bring our community together and support you.

Your tickets for the 2020 event will be automatically refunded. No action is required on your end.

To all of our fans and customers – our hearts are with you and we thank you for your patience and support as we all navigate these challenging times.

Better late than never, and all credit to Book Expo America for stating that the 2020 tickets would be automatically refunded.

That’s in stark contrast to London Book Fair, where they are allowing a 100% carry-over of the fees for the 2021 event or a paltry 60% refund for those who want the money back now to see them through the crisis.

Meanwhile a bigger question looms on the horizon. Will the publishing calendar be anywhere near back to normal by the autumn?

With Digital Book World, the Sharjah International Book Fair and the Frankfurt Book Fair among many major industry events potentially at risk, the organisers will even now be looking at possible scenarios ranging from a very weak turnout of exhibitors and visitors through to potentially outright cancellation.

While there is optimistic talk of “reopening” the economy in Europe, and a constitutional battle looming in the US as President Trump attempts to assert regal authority over the country’s next moves, the one certainty is that even if the world is open for business again by the autumn, it will be a very different world from the one we knew just a few short months ago.

And for the publishing industry there will be enormous challenges ahead to adjust to whatever the new normal may be.

For the next several months at least, the publishing industry needs to be taking things one day at a time and be prepared to reassess and reappraise every aspect of the business.