Friday, November 30, 2007


A few customers have expressed surprise at how much it costs a bookseller to attend a conference. Apparently they had assumed that their admission fee paid most of the expenses. Once I explained a bit of what it involved and asked if they felt it would be worthwhile to put up on the blog, they said definitely. So, here goes :) Everything I list below is a matter of public record, unless I specifically say otherwise. You can find out the information usually by clicking the link that says Exhibitors—for example: For SBL, go to and click on Meetings. On the Meetings page, there is a link called Exhibitor and Advertiser. This link takes you to another set of links that takes you to the PDF of the actual information. Convoluted? Yep.

Anyway...For SBL, a 10 x 10 booth costs $1500, corners are $150.00 extra—and don't forget that premium booths are an extra $600.00. Just to put that in perspective, Eisenbrauns had 8 booths this year, with 4 corner booths. While that is a significant chunk of change, there are other expenses that add up very quickly. In order to run a booth, you need electricity ($275.00), phone line ($245, plus a surcharge for each call. The phone line is needed for credit card purchases.), tables ($40-$75.00 each, depending on size), chairs ($40-$60 each, depending on type), carpeting ($121.00 per 10 ft booth, for the basic unpadded carpet. Premium is about twice that). There are other options that we don't use, but others do, such as back drapes (we bring our own), table risers, draping (we bring our own), etc.

That was just the furnishings. We are also charged a significant chunk of change for freight handling. I'm not talking about the cost of shipping the freight from Indiana to the convention, but the charge of moving it from a warehouse to the convention center. This charge varies depending on the city and unions, but for San Diego it was $62.65 per 100 pounds, which is about normal. Books are heavy, in case you hadn't noticed :) We shipped about 4000 pounds of books this year. Ironically, it costs more to move the freight across town than from Indiana to the convention city!

OK. I think we have covered most of the booth costs. Now add in the advertisements in the program books (about $750 for each one), any special fliers you make up (cost varies), the order forms, and catalogs, etc. Then there are the personnel. You will probably have to fly everyone in, and house them, and feed them. Oh, and don't forget the preparation time. It takes at least a week to pick and price all the books. Real costs, but hard to get an exact figure on. Then whatever didn't sell has to be unpacked and unpriced and reshelved back at the warehouse.

Does this sound like I am complaining? I'm not. I thoroughly enjoy conferences, even though they are tiring. I enjoy meeting customers and discussing with them what they are reading, researching, and teaching.

Is the cost worth it? Yes; definitely. That's why we keep on doing it. But, don't think that your $135.00 SBL admission fee is paying for the conference; it is the exhibitors who bear the brunt of it. So, next year you owe me lunch—just kidding.


Andy said...

You neglected to mention that for things like chairs and carpeting, you don't get to keep it. You're just renting it for three days...

DTeter said...

I am new to this, what conference did you attend, are some better than others.

jps said...

This particular conference was Society of Biblical Literature's annual meeting. We attend about 6-8 conferences per year.