Book Venders Banned from the RootsTech Exhibit Hall

UPDATE – Monday, December 12; 7:30 am: I got a call from Gordon Clarke with RootsTech 2012 this morning. They are adding a few more booths to the exhibit hall. I’ve been offered three. The FRPC booth will be smaller than usual, but we will be allowed to be there – so it looks like you will see some books at RootsTech after all.

Original Blog Post:
After waiting patiently for confirmation that Family Roots Publishing Company would again be exhibiting at RootsTech 2012, I received the following message from the RootsTech Exhibit Hall Coordinator on Friday morning.


RootsTech exhibit hall is for technically related products and services. We are purposefully not accepting applications from genealogical studies, book publishers, book resellers or arts and crafts dealers.
Please call to discuss if you like.

Gordon Clarke
RootsTech Exhibit Hall Coordinator

The note came as a shock, since the Family Roots Publishing booth at RootsTech 2011 was one of the busiest in the exhibit hall. Now – with RootsTech on the horizon, and just a few weeks away, I find that we are no longer wanted. My first question was, why didn’t someone tell us this months ago? Why were we not told this before we made our investments, based upon the mistaken belief that our services were needed and appreciated? It’s my guess that the banning of publishers has been known for some time – but I may be wrong.

Ed Zapletel, with Moorshead Magazines Ltd, and the publisher of Internet Genealogy Magazine, shot me an email shortly after having received the same note from the RootsTech folks. He went so far as to make the phone call the the Exhibit Hall Coordinator, with seemingly no positive effect.

This issue certainly can’t be a matter of space. The Salt Palace is massive. Even with all the exhibits there last year, there was room in the building for many more.

I guess the upshot of all this is that books aren’t needed anymore. However, as a publisher for the last 29 years, I can testify that we’re selling more genealogy-related books now than any time in the last three decades. And speaking of technology, many of these books have a tech aspect to them. No new book is being written on the subject that doesn’t include hundreds of references to the Internet, and the new technologies that are emerging. And there’s a guidebook being published for all aspects of Internet genealogy research. We have books on Google, FamilySearch, RootsMagic, Legacy, etc. – and many more in production.

Most genealogy book publishers and venders sell tech products besides. Family Roots Publishing markets Flip-Pal scanners, and numerous softwares, DVDS, and CD-ROM products.

I have no idea how many book venders had applied for booths at RootsTech. I do know that my friend, Martha Mercer, with Maia’s Books, planned to come. The Salt Lake Plaza Hotel will have a booth at RootsTech 2012 however. They have free wireless Internet available throughout the hotel – and that’s pretty high-tech.

45 thoughts on “Book Venders Banned from the RootsTech Exhibit Hall

  1. Did you offer to sell Kindle versions of the books also? I understand why they only want tech companies in the vendor room. I don’t understand why they waited until less than two months before the conference to tell you that you aren’t invited. Vendors plan well in advance, book hotels, flights, plan to ship their products. How can they justify waiting until the last minute to tell you such things?

  2. Some of us while wanting to learn about the new technology, do not have the funds to purchase all the new gadgets, etc. I still purchase books quite a bit. I agree that they are letting their attendees down by not letting your company come. Your books have been a great resource to me in my genealogical endeavors.

    Tina Sansone

  3. My comment from Google+ – repeated here – That amazes me. My “day job” is in the nonprofit professional society realm and (assuming there is space) exhibits are normally used to bring in income, used to defray expenses of the conference as a whole, which helps everyone. And as you say, many books ARE technology related. I mean, is it really necessary to grind the book industry into the dust? This astonished me. I wonder, Mr. Meitzler, if you might want to gather support from RootsTech attendees who have paid reg fees … they should have a voice, perhaps.

  4. Maia’s Books has been planning on participating in RootsTech, mostly because many of our customers had asked us why we weren’t there last year. I explained to them that the conference had been presented as only tech related, my customers response was yes, that’s true, but we still want to see and purchase from you and the other vendors we see at national conferences. At the FGS in September, the staff at the RootsTech booth actively recruited Maia’s to attend, even wanted me to send in an application while at the booth. Maia’s has yet to receive notice of whether we are invited or not. I’m assuming based on what Leland and Ed have received Maia’s is not welcome either. And as a previous poster has stated we have to plan and budget for participating in conferences well in advance, and this costs us time and money.

  5. That’s a big bummer, and to wait until the last minute, that’s not good at all. I’m beginning to wonder what’s happening to the “Roots” part of RootsTech.

  6. A short sighted policy, I think, for RootsTech – and perhaps, someone’s snap decision.
    Goodness, Leland, you were among the earlier adopters using the Internet for genealogy and genealogy sales! A very significant proportion of ‘real’ books are sold on the Internet from stores and publishers like you – that all seems pretty technical to most of us.

    (And not to let companies know about this new policy early on seems pretty shabby to me.)

  7. What about all the books that are out there on how to use technology better in our research? Genealogy isn’t yet completely tech based. Books play a big part in what we do. It seems to me that they also forgot that books, at one time, were the latest in technology. Yeah, maybe that was in the 1500s, but still.

  8. As someone pointed out, Salt Palace is huge. Any chance you vendors could get together and rent an adjoining space?

  9. Absolutely ridiculous! An ignorant decision and one that I certainly wouldn’t support! I agree…what about Technology related books? What about the fact that it was a big draw at previous RootsTech conferences? With such a pool of genealogists they should ensure they have booths/vendors that the attendees will want to go to!

  10. I just bought “Genealogy Online For Dummies” 6th. edition, because Lou Szucs said it had a lot of new technology & websites in it. It does! So books are important for learning about the new technology out there.

    J. Paul Hawthorne
    The Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego

  11. But will they have massage chairs and Wii machines for genealogists again this year? Silly and shortsighted.

  12. This policy is akin to the attitude that we no longer need libraries because we can find everything on the Internet. As a librarian, I am deeply disturbed by such a narrow interpretation of technology. I spend a good share of my day in front of a computer screen and greatly relish any time spent with a “real” book, whether for research or pleasure. I was contemplating attending RootsTech in the future. Like the vendors, I like to plan ahead. Hmmmmm, guess I will spend my money elsewhere.

  13. There are many genealogy books that I wouldn’t want in digital format, especially on a reader like a Nook or a Kindle – and I love my Kindle. Digital formats can be very inconvenient under some circumstances. Makes me wonder if these RootsTech folks (and I don’t now a lot about them) read many books in any format.

  14. This is a terrible decision! I hope they will reconsider. Conferences are the only place we get to see a good selection of genealogy books. Some presenters are authors and we may want to purchase their books. And there are many good books about technology. It makes me not want to go to the conference!

  15. I won’t be attending this conference though I have attended other Conferences as a genealogist. Since all of us are multi-faceted people, banning booksellers is a big mistake. I would be very disappointed if I were attending and think the powers that be should reconsider.

  16. So books are threatening to computers and cell phones and have to be banned from this conference (hereafter referred to as “con”)? LOLZ.

    My dictionaries (hard copy AND electronic) define technology as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. No reference to books, or computers either for that matter, in this definition. Somebody has a narrow definition of technology.

    I posted a link to the conference website on my genealogy organization’s Facebook page, but I have removed the link until the con organizers reconsider their bookseller ban. My org is networked with others in the area. Think page hit subtraction in a heavily populated area of the country.

    If I were to find out after registering for a con that no booksellers would be in the vendor hall, I would want my money back.

  17. I just looked at the exhibitor information on the RootsTech website: “RootsTech is accepting requests to participate as exhibitors in the Expo Hall at the RootsTech 2012 conference. RootsTech exhibit hall is for technically related products and services. We are purposefully not accepting applications from book publishers or arts and crafts dealers.” Was this information there when you registered to exhibit or has it been revised since. Either way, I, as a first-time attender of RootsTech am not pleased with this decision, agreeing with several previous posters about needing to see books at genealogical conferences, especially those that deal with technology and its use in genealogy. For shame, RootsTech. This is not a good decision.

  18. I don’t have the application in front of me, but when I was invited to apply to vend at RootsTech 2012, I didn’t see anyhing about book venders not being allowed. That would have thrown up a red flag right at that point. And if that had been the case, why wouldn’t my application have been rejected then?

  19. We had the same experience! On Friday we finally received an email from Gordon Clark of Roots Tech, almost identical to the one you got. We were equally shocked.
    First, because our firm, Stories To Tell, provides editing and book design services, not book publishing – a technical service requiring book design software. Second, because RootsTech thought we were “technical” enough to have us teach a class “Self Publish Your MS Word Book Like a Pro” In addition, the RootsTech Program Committee contacted us November 15th to see if we would be willing to present another class as a lab. We said we would.
    We had sent in an exhibitor application at the RootsTech Booth at the California Family History Expo in early October. The RootsTech staffer at the Expo told us that we would hear from somebody from RootsTech within “a couple of weeks.” When we didn’t hear from anyone, we sent an inquiry on October 26th. We got no response. Finally, on December 8th, we sent another email inquiry and got Mr. Clark’s curt and dismissive reply the next day. We immediately telephoned to discuss the situation as Mr. Clark had invited us to do. Guess what. No reply. We are still hoping to speak with Mr. Clark.
    We, like you, are shocked by RootsTech’s misguided policy. To suggest that books aren’t an essential part of the tech world is simply to deny reality.
    Let’s hope that reason will prevail and RootsTech will reverse this ill-considered decision.
    Good luck Leland!
    Is there anyone else at RootsTech to appeal to? There must be a more sympathetic and knowledgeable person at FamilySearch who understands the importance of written information!

  20. This conference is supposed to “bring developers and users of technology together.” Some of those developers might jump at the chance to purchase a book on genealogy so that they can understand what their users need.

  21. I find this rediculous! Many of us have learned to use technology through reading books! I do have a lot of tech tools, but for genealogy research I want a book that I can easily refer to as often as I need. I’m not good enough with computers to always be able to find my saved files & with books, I can have half a dozen open to the page I need at one time, withoout having to shuffle through numerous files on the computer.

  22. Thank you for sharing this information. My hope is the all but universal negative reaction will have some impact. As an end user I have no interest any genealogy related conference that does not include vendors sharing information that, at least at this point in time, is still primarily available in book form.

  23. So many internet-published and hard-copy books pertain to use of technology and modern technologically-advanced resources in genealogical research, not to mention how to use the technology itself. What a ridiculous and ill-conceived dividing line this is.

  24. Hmm. It would now appear that RootsTech has become irrelevant to my world. In this economy, I have sympathy for any vendor who is so summarily shunted aside this late in the planning, and can certainly find better resources than RootsTech to spend my money upon.

  25. [Sniffs the air and then asks]
    Is that a restraint of trade lawsuit I smell in the air?

    Particularly if any of the Presenters have any of their books on sale at the conference?

    It would appear that the RootsTech 2012 organizers have suddenly come down with a severe case of EOS [Early Onset Stupidity]

  26. “…Family Roots Publishing booth at RootsTech 2011 was one of the busiest in the exhibit hall….”

    There is your answer. Someone, or several other companies, more “tech” oriented, complained. Perhaps even threatened. And that has put the shows coordinators between a rock and a hard place with little choice apparently, a no win situation for them I would guess. They should have had more backbone and said they’d implement the new policy for 2013, imho.

    Whelp, one thing left to do. Start your own show. Same day(s), same town, 2013.

  27. Very short sighted on RootsTech part! As someone immersed in technlogy, I appreaciate the need and value printed books play in the world of genealogy. We are not in the 22nd century yet, and transistion to all digital will be a slow process. As many here have said (and from personal discussions I’ve had with Leland), Family Roots Publishing is embracing technology. I will make a (professional) comment to Gordon Clarke about this. Funny, I initially come out with books in pure digital format, then have them printed.
    I hope the RootsTech people can be made aware of this blog and all the entries. There are some very good points made here by many people. Maybe plenty of emails to Gordon with the link.

  28. Fun Stuff for Genealogists was invited to attend and begged (!!!) to attend BUT I did not think driving across mountain ranges in winter was a good thing! I told them I was going to FLORIDA instead and asked why they do this in January! Geeze, am I glad we chose Florida! Are T-shirts banned too????? ha!

  29. A large percentage of RootsTech’s better presenters write books, many of which are about technology. Since RootsTech doesn’t pay presenters, many authors use book sales to defray the costs of coming to Salt Lake City and helping FamilySearch launch this fledgling conference. This decision causes financial harm to the very experts that are the lifeblood of this conference.

  30. Like many, I think this is a shortsighted decision. If space was an issue I would have more sympathy, but I’ve been to the Salt Palace and can’t believe they are going to run out of room in the exhibit hall. I wonder if it’s simply an image issue (“technology” is cool, print publications are not). I have limited funds to spend on conference attendance and while I considered going to RootsTech, I will stick with conferences that are about offering a wide range of resources to further genealogy research: high tech, low tech, and everything in between.

  31. Hear! Hear! Annonymous.
    For as much as we enjoy speaking, the pure altruism of sharing our knowledge doesn’t pay the bills. The economics of conferences are set up so that speakers can do so in the Exhibit Hall.
    As people chosen to speak at RootsTech, we were looking forward to the event for two reasons. We enjoy speaking to groups and sharing what we know as editors and book designers about using a variety of technology tools to create family history books. But we were also looking forward to the opportunity to sell our book Stories To Tell: An Easy Guide to Self Publishing Family History Books and Memoirs, our CD which is designed to help authors plan and organize a family history book, and most of all to talk with potential clients about how we might help them to write a family history. When RootsTech notified us that we would not be welcome in the Exhibit Hall, we began to reconsider our decision to attend at all. I wonder how many other presenters have been excluded from the exhibit hall and are now considering whether to attend.

  32. I’m a 40+yr Gen-Researcher, and a Technology Marketer for IBM, so I’ve been trying to justify the time off, the travel and expense to attend the 2012 conference. In years past I wanted to go but couldn’t afford to even think of it. I’m also an avid book collector, reader and supporter of all things literary, in print and online. This decision by Rootstech has now made my decision easier. I will NOT ATTEND. Books encourage literacy, historical archivery and genealogy would and could not be done without them. Shame on Rootstech2012!

  33. This decision is at best thoughtless, and at worst seeks to create a division where there is no need for one to exist. Let’s hope they reconsider, and sharpish. In which case I look forward to seeing you at Rootstech. I hadn’t intended to buy any books while I was there, but I think I will after all.

  34. Not all books are available yet on DVD. I have found many books on my ancestors that aren’t, even though I would like to see this. The technology is just not as advanced yet, and how many want to take a portable scanner worth $200? Though I sometimes a “how to” genealogy book is a dinsosaur, one never knows what one will find. I do not care about arts and crafts, but books are a must. When I first read the note, I thought the Nazis were out again. Some things cannot be done without a book. Do you all want to make our scriptures only on DVD’s? It is just not time yet.

  35. My opinion is that this is a short-sighted, backward-thinking decision. I would suggest that all of us that are frustrated with this decision consider writing the RootsTech information email address: I just sent my email off a few minutes ago.

    There are only a few book vendors, compared with those of us in the genealogical community who are their potential customers and attendees. I suspect that we might help out the book vendors if we actually took action to let the people in charge know that we are unhappy with their decision. I didn’t threaten to not attend, I simply and calmly explained why I thought their decision was not in their best interest, and I suggest that many of you do the same.

    Truth is, genealogy books are one of the few book markets that are not readily available in electronic format, at least it appears so to me (perhaps I’m wrong). That may be a fault of the genealogical publishing houses. I suspect that if more books were available in e-format that this might be less of an issue. Even so, I like my paper book library for reference! 🙂

    Anyway, please let your voices be heard. It may not change anything (especially for this year), but then again, it just might. And for those of us attending, if there are no book vendors, we can make our displeasure about that known in our conference critiques at the end of the event.

  36. Leland,
    We want to thank you for your quick action in sounding the alarm about RootsTech’s decision not to allow books, book related products or services in the exhibit hall. We, like you, heard from Gordon Clarke today and will be exhibiting at RootsTech after all. It wouldn’t have happened without your post and the lesson in the power of social media that it triggered for all of us.
    Thanks, and best wishes,
    Nancy and Biff Barnes

  37. Since when is s book not technology? Moveable type was the most significant technological development of the last millennium.

    Their presentation selection last year basically ignored books, with Google searching way over-covered, while a proposal for Google Books/Google Scholar sessions was turned down.

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