Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

Book Expo Wrapup

By Levi Asher on Sunday, May 31, 2009 06:53 pm
BEA 2009 was my third Book Expo. The first time I came here, in 2005, I got invited to no parties (I didn't even know there were parties) and I walked the convention center floors feeling bewildered.

The second time, in 2007, I got invited to the parties but didn't know what to do at the parties once I got there. I walked the convention floors feeling excluded.

This time, it was my own friends hosting the parties, and I walked the convention center floors feeling entirely comfortable. So now I have finally adjusted to Book Expo -- the one USA book industry convention that the entire industry actually shows up for -- just at the moment that many in the industry began to question whether a radical shift towards digital publishing will become necessary in the next year, whether book publishing is in permanent decline, and whether or not there will even be another Book Expo next year.

Attendance is down and fewer galleys are available, but the spirit of innovation is up. I'm sure the economic problems currently obsessing booksellers have more to do with poor consumer spending and less to do with the digital revolution, and so I couldn't stand to sit through a Saturday morning panel discussion about whether large commercial book publishers "still hold the keys to the kingdom", or a later one about how book reviews are changing. The probability of hearing a single fresh thought at either event seemed slight, so instead I saved my event-going for a panel called 7x20x21, organized by Ami Greko and Ryan Champan and offering free-form inspiration from Lauren Cerand, Chris Jackson, Pablo Defendini, Debbie Stier, Matt Supko, Jeff Yamaguchi and Richard Nash. At 7 strictly-timed minutes per speaker, nobody had time to do anything but speak from the heart. Let's forget about the future of the book for a moment and talk instead about the future of the panel discussion: 7x20x21 is a good template for other event organizers to follow.

A "blogger book signing" sponsored by NetGalley.com was a real hoot. I enjoyed sharing my hour with Sarah Johnson, who writes about historical fiction at Reading the Past. I had never heard of several other literary bloggers I shared this schedule with. I gather that many of them specialize in specific genres or areas, and that several are more obsessed with the constant stream of newly published books than I am (personally, I'm also excited about what books are coming out next year, as long as next year is 1863).

But most of these sites also feature the characteristic I value most in a literary blog: an authentic human voice. Here's the whole gang, for your checking-out enjoyment: The Book Maven, Presenting Lenore, Follow the Reader, Maw Books, GalleyCat, Tools of Change for Publishing, Books on the Nightstand, Beatrice.com, Booksquare, Jenn's Bookshelf, The Swivet, Book Club Girl, Booking Mama, My Friend Amy, The Friendly Book Nook, Beth Fish Reads, Pop Culture Junkie, She is Too Fond of Books, Hey Lady! Watcha Readin'?, Reviewer X, My Cozy Book Nook, Book Reviews by Jess , Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Personanondata, Sharon Loves Cats, Janicu’s book blog, The Big Picture, The Olive Reader, Literary License, Stephanie’s Written Word, Bookrastination, Every Day I Write the Book, Reading the Past, Literary Kicks, Wands and Worlds, Mother Reader, Teleread, Laura’s Review Book Shelf, The Tome Traveller's Weblog, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, Bat Segundo, The Abbeville Manual of Style.

I could say more about Book Expo 2009, but I can't compete with the Twitter tag for currency. Is the book biz in trouble? I just don't think so, based on the enthusiasm I've spent the last three days soaking in.

After I left BEA Sunday morning I was exhausted and slightly sick of the scene, but I found myself at Penn Station an hour and a half later with some time to kill. Naturally, I spent the next twenty minutes in a bookstore.
4 Responses to "Book Expo Wrapup"

I was there too! Though I didn't sign, I did get my boob signed by Ed Champion, and that should count for something.

thanks for the shout out to the signing - but more so to all your compatriot bloggers. It was a hoot, and made me feel as though we tapped a nerve in the broader publishing community. Thanks for being part of it!

by Michael on

Weird, I spent a half-hour myself at that same Borders while waiting for a train. All I needed was just a moleskine and a black pilot pen. I could not believe they didn't have any simple ordinary black pens! They had a whole floor covered in journals, cards, stationary, and pink stuff for little girls' birthdays, and not one single black pen. I asked three people working there, and all three of them looked at me like I had asked directions to the Moon.

For those of us who were not at the BEA this year, it has been wholly energizing to hear about the blogger signings and the life that still revolves around books.

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