I’m just back from BookExpo America. “Just back” being a bit of an exaggeration, since I got back to my little desert home on Monday night, but have been in “BEA Hangover” state until this morning. Was it worth it? Well, yes and no. In my bookish opinion, this year’s BEA was pretty much business as usual in many respects, but there were a few very fantastic events and many small moments that made this year one to remember, and all of them were about connecting in real life with some of the really great people that make being in the book world really wonderful.
BEA Book Blogger Palooza
The truly remarkable Mr. Fran Toolan summed up the biggest BEA highlight in the quote above. Booth #4077, the Firebrand/NetGalley Booth was THE PLACE TO BE on the show floor this year. Fran’s stroke of genius in hosting a bevy of book bloggers at the booth paid off in spades. All weekend long, enthusiastic bloggers “signed” (no really, they signed these fantastic book blogger trading cards that @PermanentPaper – aka Melissa Klug of Glatfelter Paper designed and printed) while a large flatscreen displayed tweetdeck streaming the action live on Twitter.
Let’s just say, the book blogger signings at the NetGalley booth were a huge hit. Masses of people gravitated to the booth, and for those who were unfamiliar with book blogging and bloggers prior to being pulled into the 4077th’s orbit, they didn’t stay unfamiliar for long. I’d go so far as to say lots of conference goers came away from the booth huge fans of book blogging and some even told me they were going to take up blogging themselves.
GalleyCat did a shoutout (complete with video) about it, and Verso’s Denise Berthiaume brought her video crew over to interview a few of the bloggers too. So, that’s success. To quote another esteemed bookish person who knows about such things, one Mr. Richard Nash, “Fran did a very rare thing. He created an event on the floor. It was a gathering place.”
According to all (or all I’ve heard) accounts, the BEAtweetup was also a huge success and I’m pretty sure both sponsors and guests (all upwards of 500 of them) left happy. As an organizer of said event, I was pleased as punch that it even got a good “review” from Miss Carolyn Kellog (@paperhaus to you Tweeple) in the LA Times’ Jacket Copy. And, aside from being thrilled that all went off without any noticeable hitches, I’m really glad it’s over and am planning to have a t-shirt made: “I survived the BEAtweetup of 2009.” So, thank you all you sponsors, and thank you all you organizers, and thank you all you guests who attended. I think the People’s Party needs to be a tradition. (see you next year – who wants to organize?)
But What of the Books, and Readers, and Authors, and Whatnot?
Oh, right. The books. Celebrating and SELLING the books. The real reason all of us were converging upon the Javits Center. Well, there were some books. There were not as many physical galleys as in previous years (though the hot ones were in big demand — lots of people were seeking copies of Suzanne Collins’ follow-up to Hunger Games, Catching Fire), but there was a lot of action regarding various forms of new-fangled digital book stuff: digital galleys (NetGalley had a number of new publishers sign up for their e-galley program, and Harper Collins began a trial use of Symptio e-galleys); there were some audio “galley” downloads; Perseus Book Group crowd-sourced and pumped out their flash-fried Book: The Sequel in various formats (note: this book rocks, and you can request an egalley of it at NetGalley by searching “sequel” in the catalog at netgalley.com); the Espresso digital book machine was going full force; and Above the Treeline demo’d their very cool digital catalog, Edelweiss.
As for authors and celebrating books, one particular event really warmed my heart–and made me worry about the future: the ABA’s “Celebration of Bookselling/Indies Choice Book Awards.” I’m still not sure why the good people of the ABA were kind enough to invite me (thank you, Mark Nichols), but boy was I happy to be there. Esteemed author after esteemed author (many from the Indie Next List) got up (or showed up via video) to thank the indie booksellers who have very much been responsible for making the esteemed authors esteemed.
Sherman Alexie, Suzanne Collins, Jon Scieszka, Kristin Cashore, Mo Willems, and on and on…what a cool thing to see people we worship — worshipping booksellers. (BTW: Sarah Vowell’s video “thank you” for Wordy Shipmates being voted “best conversation starter,” was hilarious and hopefully will show up on YouTube).
What worries me…more of the same I’ve expressed here before. If our beloved and endangered indie booksellers can no longer work as indie booksellers, who is going to help us find the Sherman Alexies and Suzanne Collinses, etc.?
My sense of worry over whence the indies shall go, is small potatoes compared to the practically palpable vibe of anxiety many publishers were putting out in the conference center. That’s the thing. With all the hope and new ideas and energy of change, the worry and angst from some of the bigger publishers was a real drag. In spite of there being some great educational sessions with lots of ideas for making the book world a better place in leaner times, the people who really needed to be in those sessions were all in their booths lamenting the passing of the golden era.
So, those are my first impressions of BEA09. No doubt many of you who were also there have some impressions of your own to offer. And, as always, Follow the Reader would love to hear them!
Some great posts around the web re: BEA:
- BookSquare: BEA 2009: A Bit of Deja Vu All Over Again
- Edward Champion’s Reluctant Habits: Sherman Alexie Clarifies “Elitist Charges”
- HarperStudio/26th Story: #BEA09
- The IdeaLogical Blog: BEA Will Be A Shame to Lose, But Can It Be Saved?
- Publisher’s Weekly: Sunday, Bloody Sunday-Richard Nash
- PersonaNonData: Readers at BookExpo?
- LibraryJournal: BookExpo America 2009: Books and Digital Delivery Dominate Show
- BookSelling This Week: Live From BookExpo
- Inside Higher Ed – Views: The Tension Point
- Magellan Media: BEA and Everything After
PS: Join us tomorrow (Thursday, June 3rd at 1:30 PM EST) for #FollowReader! We’ll be announcing the Book Blogger Signing Sony Reader winners!