Monday, March 30, 2009

Working in an Amazon World

Astak finds the perfect manufacturer in China. The Hanlin V3 was a very respected machine; but there were no companies distributing in North America. Astak had the knowledge of the market but it looked like the Mentor line was going to need work before we could release it. We contacted the makers of the Hanlin and visited them in China. We got an agreement done and promptly placed the first order... detailing the packaging, re-writing the user manual, creating a website to support the unit, and setting up techncial support.

We also decided that the 2009 CES would be the official release point. We had a 1,000 square foot booth at the front of The Sands Expo and hoped we would draw some traffic there.

CES may be fun for attendees but it is a grind for exhibitors. Imagine flying 20 people to Las Vegas, shoehorning 18 of them into a 2 bedroom house down there, ordering the booth design, arranging for cars and vans, and getting up every morning at 5:30 a.m. to start the drive to the Sands. Then you stand all day and answer questions. An exhibitor does not have fun at CES... they only take pride in surviving it. The hours are horrible and every person is needed all day long. We got very fortunate that I had an old friend in Las vegas that was a great salesperson named Phillip Walsh. He was kind enough to help and we could not have succeeded without him. Many thanks to Mr. Walsh from a grateful Astak.

Some people arrived 5 days before the show to start the booth set-up and to start readying the house. The internet at the house was OUT and that took days to get working again. Dust is everywhere in the house and the landscaping needs immediate attention. The people arriving earlt stock the house with food, oversee clean-up, pull maintenance, and then get to the show to oversee booth set-up.

CES would NOT cooperate as they had NO category for eBooks or eBook Readers and would not create one. They failed to see that the public would have any interest and just sidestepped the issue. Without a category, we would be solely responsible for bringing people to our booth. It was really hard on Astak but we wanted to excel anyway.

Every day additional employees are arriving. Management is the last to arrive and frequently misses what the advance crew is accomplishing. It is no picnic. Problems pop up everywhere and no matter what... the advance crew has to solve the problems and make ready. The landscaspe trees at the house are falling over from wind, there are not enough towels, we are short on tools and electric extensions, and where do 18 people sleep in a 2 bedroom house? This is what it is like to do a CES. You learn to relish just finding time to sit and eat. Somehow, it all gets done each year and people start laying out the displays.

Talking of the displays, work starts on next year's booth ten months in advance. Everything from give-aways to electrical panels has to be figured out and ordered to arrive on time. Astak is not only showing eBook Readers but their Security Camera line and many new products like the first plug and play IP camera!! There is only so much room and every division wants plenty of space. New Team shirts have to be ordered and brochures and signage. Having 25 years of CES experience... I train the new employees on what to expect and all year ride herd on getting everybody to start EARLY to prepare.

Finally, the start of the booth is ready the night before the show opens. There is time for a dinner and then getting to bed early. The obvious question is if anybody will show any interest in what we are showing. CES did not seem to think so and we were wondering ourselves.

The first morning dawns cold but clear. We arrive by 6:30 a.m. and stand around waiting to be let into our booth area. By 8:00 the show opens. Within minutes we are overrun by frenzied attendees wondering WHAT an eBook Reader is and why they should buy ours. The pace continues for 4 days. People flood the booth all day and every day. We all lose our voices and our energy. The eBook Readers came in colors and that is drawing rave reviews. Our factory has a kiosk at our booth. There are no breaks as we are flooded continuously. We have to find time to meet with the big and powerful chain store buyers and distributors. A few press come to the booth and do stories on us (thanks to Jim Barry of CEA who was the only one connected with CES to really take an interest). People are loving the novelty of reading books on electronic digital readers and they have thousands of questions. Astak is educating the public on the benefits: energy saving and great on the eyes, no waste of paper and no landfill waste of old books, you can play music while reading books, you can save previously read books for ages, and there are no toxic paper waste byproducts. For all four days the pace just heightens and people are coming back a second and third time. The huge Fluorescent Orange Astak bags are a massive hit in canvas and Astak becomes THE PLACE to see at The Sands. By the third day everyone is exhausted. Legs and voices are giving out. Phillip Walsh has learned well and is doing an incredible job but feels less than fully appreciated; and yet everyone is so tired they cannot express their gratitude properly. Phillip continues to greet attendees like a man possessed.

Finally the great show ends and the break-down begins. The house looks like a tornado hit and people need to fly back and start follow-up.

As a result of the show, CES saw the light! CES is working with me this year to build a special area for eBook Readers and eBooks and this next CES looks like it will be the Year of the eBook at CES. IF you love eBooks, plan on being there!! It will be January 7 thru 10, 2010 in Las Vegas. eBook Reader Manufacturers, publishers, content providers, and accessory makers will be there. Now YOU can try to survive CES too!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi.
    Greetings from Spain. I've been working for years in Feria Muestrario Internacional, in Valencia, one of the biggest fairs in Spain. You can google it, it will surprise you.

    I know the work involved in a fair, the preparation, the things that can go wrong and I agree that it's a great effort for exhibitors. I'm writing this only to encourage you to keep doing it, because this is the right way.

    I'm member of one of the most important webpage about ereaders in Spain and I have to say that we are very dissapointed with you not developing the long time announced bigger formats of your readers. We see Astak as the company that make promises that not always are accomplished.

    But, after reading your blog, I understand you, your effort, and why you got stucked with stubborn chinese people.

    I'd love to be in Las Vegas next year but it won't be possible. I'll tell our community your big plans for the next CES. I wish you can do it, you can show us new ereaders with biggers sizes and if you can improve the color eink screen, it would be absolutely great.



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