Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Neophyte's Impressions of Book Expo America

Well, that was something. I’m not sure what exactly, but it definitely was not nothing. A few scattered thoughts, observations, and curiosities from the exhibition floor of Book Expo America:
  • While autographs have never really interested me, apparently they interest a great many of the bookish stripe. I wasn’t too surprised by the giant lines for Lemony Snicket or Fergie, but Gary Shteyngart? That’s when you realize you are in bizarro-world.
  • Self-publishing is out of control--and a lot of desperate-looking authors around the self-publishing booths.
  • Not as many review copies handed out as I somehow thought there would be. Picked up advance copies for new books by Paul Auster, Per Petterson, and Philp Roth (maybe I was only there for the “P” giveaways), but most of the available titles were decidedly second or third tier, though it makes sense; the new Franzen doesn’t really need hype.
  • HarperCollins was giving out digital advance copies, and I picked up a stub for Elmore Leonard’s new novel Dijbouti. Now if I only had something to read it on…
  • iPads destroyed Kindles. Saw the little buggers everywhere, but nary a Kindle in sight. Spent a couple of minutes with the enTourage eDGe. Verdict? Welcome to the dustbin of history, fella. And the strangest capitalization scheme since NyQuil. 
  • The librarians were as thick as thieves. Seemed to travel in pods of 6-8 regularly and gave the proffered goods extreme scrutiny. As I tweeted from the floor, they are the band kids of the publishing business; they aren't exactly glamorous, but they are serious, tight-knit, and you ignore them at your peril.
  • I was weirdly fascinated by the booths for bookstore supplies: shelving, display options, and bookish impulse buys. Who knew what cardboard could do?
  • Even middle-aged executives can be lured with candy.
  • There are a too many e-publishing answers looking for a question. We need some consolidation and standardization here.
  • Amazon and Apple were surprisingly absent, so there were TWO 800-pound gorillas in the room.
  • Google really, really wants us not to be nervous about Google Books. And that’s making people nervous.
  • Shocked at the floor-space for children’s books. Seemed like a quarter to a third of the show. Now if only those ankle-biters would grow up to be readers.

All in all, an interesting, though not riveting, experience. Glad I went once. Looking forward to the Book Blogger Convention tomorrow--setting my nerd phaser to maximum.


  1. You rule, Ape. I really wanted to go to BEA for the first time this year, but couldn't pull it together. But this post is almost better than having gone myself.

    I can't WAIT for the new Franzen. And "band kids of the publishing business" just caused me to spray my screen with coffee. So, thanks for that.

    What's the story with Google Books and the nervousness? Copyrights?

  2. Ah, thanks Greg. And it's not any one thing with Google, just I think people realize they have so many resources and little regard for the conventional way of doing things. They had all of these flyers explaining, basically, why Google Books isn't that scary. And any time you have to explain why you aren't're already kind of scary.

  3. Thanks for the observations. Everyone else just seems to be raving so it is good to see some considered thoughts for once :-)

    I love the image of gangs of librarians - I can't really imagine them here in the UK, but it is amusing to try!

    Thanks for making me feel as though I'm not missing out on anything really amazing - I was getting a bit envious of everyone there - am feeling a bit better now I've read your post!

  4. Your twitter box isn't working in the left sidebar - I wanted to check I was following you, but I can't see your twitter id :-(

  5. Jackie- It's definitely interesting, but frankly not more interesting to me than a really good bookstore.

    And as far as I can tell, the Twitter feed looks to be working properly. Sorry it's weird on your end and I'll see if I can troubleshoot it. In the meantime, you can follow me @readingape. Cheers!

  6. Back home and refreshed from BEA. I thought some of those librarians were like vultures. You'd think they hadn't seen a book in years. Some people where pushing past me. BBC up next tomorrow!!

  7. Ape, I love your posts. Personally, I have nothing but love for librarians. Their job is similar to mine but much quieter! Librarians who cannot be ignored--I love it.

  8. Hey, nothing but love for librarians here too. Just thought the social dynamics were interesting.

  9. I found your blog through the Blog Hop. You have some really interesting posts! Count me in as a new follower!

    Oh, if you have an iPod Touch or download the Sony Reader software (it's free) you might be able to read the digital copy of Djibouti. I looked up what it is about and it looks like an interesting read. I hope you will be able to read it!

  10. Ape, re the librarians, I took that observation as a respectful but keenly noted detail. I enjoy your posts because they are brief but telling. Nothing but love for apes as well;)

  11. The "band kids" comment made me chuckle.

    Sounds like you deserve a nerdy bottle of wine tonight. Try a Northern Rhone: Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes (2005 was a great year and readily available).


    Loire Valley: Touraine 2008s are quite good.

  12. This is the best BEA post I've seen, Skip.
    I'm jealous I'm not there to see the vicious gangs of librarians.

    Looking forward to your synopsis of the BBCon! Bring it on :)

  13. Interesting insights. :)

    Stopping by on the Hop. Let's do the Hop!

    My Hop is here.


  14. BEA was interesting. Looking through the attendee lists at the Book Blogger Convention. I did the roving band of librarian thing on Tuesday, then went to the lone collector mode for books, followed by the dazed and overloaded Book Blogger Convention after three days of BEA previously.

  15. My reading pile grows well enough without attending a book expo. Besides I usually see the authors and publishers I like at sci-fi/fantasy conventions. If I make the day's drive to NYC it's for theatre and museums. Nice coverage of the BEA.