BookExpo America is a bellwether for trade book publishing. Simple numbers, of attendees and exhibitors, measure commitment to the value of old-fashioned community as part of what makes an industry an industry—even if the majority of the talk is about virtual community, viral marketing, and digital delivery of “content.” The first word in BEA remains “book,” and the annual show, still a gathering of independent boooksellers, draws a diverse crowd that shares an interest in the business of books. And when one drills down into the particulars of any one show, what is revealed is a very considered response to what the industry says it cares about.
Last year's show, occurring in the midst of a great economic downturn and general panic in retailing sectors across the board, made a number of adjustments. The author stages were roundly applauded and the edgy panels that dared to ponder if not promote the extinction of many traditional publishing practices also showed that the BEA was not out of touch. There were also a number of loud prophecies about the future of everything—from books on paper to “horizontality” to the fate of copyright law—including the future of BEA itself. Veteran industry consultant Mike Shatzkin predicted, though it pained him to do so, BEA's eventual demise; publishing investment strategist Martin Levin pleaded for the show to get smaller; former publisher and now entrepreneur Richard Nash hoped it would get bigger and go more public. These prominent commentators were not the voices of booksellers, agents or publishers, but rather people who are betting on the outcome of the revolution, most of it technological, that is rolling through a mature industry. From publishers themselves, the complaints about BEA are often the same—too expensive, hard to determine value, and where are the media?
This year's show, the first under the direction of Steve Rosato, responds to many of the needs expressed by various quarters of the industry.
Beyond the Book: If the future of the book is no longer on paper between boards or covers, as many predict, the BEA is not in denial, as it partners this year with the International Digital Publishing Forum, which will run its all-day conference at the Javits Center on Tuesday, May 25, and sponsor the Digital Book Zone on the show floor the next two days. IDPF will run sessions and workshops on a variety of topics, from “Taking the 'Agency Model' Out for a Spin” to an “EPUB Boot Camp: Learn How to Produce E-books in the Industry Standard.”
Before the Book: A recent R.R. Bowker survey found a total of 764,000 “nontraditional” titles last year; while many found this hard to believe, BEA 2010 will devote an entire day—Monday, May 24—to DIY authors. The new venture, launched in association with Gotham Writers' Workshop and The Writer magazine, will introduce aspiring writers to a host of companies in the business of bringing their works to print or e-book reality.
Don't Forget the Consumer: Richard Nash is not the only voice asking that the BEA open itself to the public, as several other book events do. Although BEA leadership remains steadfast in viewing the show as a trade event, in which bookselling to the public would be unwieldy, it has lined up more than a dozen venues hosting a week of author events, overlapping BEA. These events should generate large public attendance and media attention—just the sort of thing Nash and others were talking about. As Nash told PW, “I think the changes are good in that they are diversifying the stakeholders. Since they couldn't bring everyone in under the same main tent, they made more tents and clustered them.”
More Focus: The shorter two-day show moved midweek is meant to sharpen the focus of the working show. There are fewer panels to keep people off the exhibit floor. Will the shorter show save publishers money? Dominique Raccah, CEO at Sourcebooks in Chicago, said she is estimating about a 4% savings in cost of attendance and is optimistic about the prospects for the new show. “We applaud the BEA team for seeking to make changes that will make the show more effective,” she told PW, “and we hope they succeed. As a matter of fact, our plans are predicated on their success.”
Here are selected highlights before and during the show.
BEA's DIY Authors Conference & Marketplace will run all day.
The plenary session (8:30–10 a.m.) will be the CEO panel, co-sponsored with the ABA. Moderated by Jonathan Galassi, president of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, the discussion will focus on what is the value in books and derives partly from an op-ed Galassi wrote for the New York Times last January titled “There's More to Publishing Than Meets the Screen.” Panelists include Bob Miller, Workman; Esther Newberg, ICM; Skip Prichard, Ingram; David Shanks, Penguin Group (USA); Oren Teicher, ABA; and Scott Turow, incoming president of the Authors Guild.
All-day sessions for IDPF Conference and the ABA Day of Education.
Editors' Buzz Panel: John Freeman, Granta's American editor, once again hosts six editors talking up their big titles for the fall at 4:30: Chuck Adams at Algonquin on Jonathan Evison's West of Here; Susanna Porter at Ballantine on Anne Fortier's Juliet; Mitzi Angel at FSG on Ben Gold-acre's Bad Science; Judy Clain at Little, Brown on Emma Donoghue's Room; Nan Graham at Scribner on Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer; and Cary Goldstein at Twelve on Benjamin Hale's The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore.
Opening Night Keynote Reception: Barbra Streisand will be interviewed about My Passion for Design, coming from Viking in November—her first appearance on behalf of the book—at 6 p.m.
Children's Book and Author Breakfast: Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and author of Helping Hand Books: Emily's First Day at School (Sterling Children's Books) will host Cory Doctorow, For the Win (Tor Books/Tor Teen); Mitali Perkins, Bamboo People (Charlesbridge); and Richard Peck, Three Quarters Dead (Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers) at 8 a.m.
Young Adult Editors Buzz: Jack Martin, of the New York Public Library, introduces editors Julie Strauss-Gabel of Dutton Children's Books on Ally Condie's Matched; Jennifer Weis at St. Martin's Press on Rebecca Maizel's Infinite Days; Cindy Eagan at Little Brown/Poppy on Kody Keplinger's The Duff; Farrin Jacobs at HarperTeen on Sophie Jordan's Firelight; and Arthur Levine at his eponymous Scholastic imprint on Erin Bow's Plain Kate.
Book & Author Breakfast: Perhaps saving the best for the last (day), Jon Stewart, back to BEA for the first time since 2004, will get to introduce Condoleezza Rice, among others, at the Author Breakfast. On the same panel: John Grisham and Mary Roach.
Book & Author Luncheon: Patton Oswalt, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland (Scribner) hosts lunch with Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir (Twelve/Hachette Book Group USA); Sara Gruen, Ape House (Spiegel & Grau); and William Gibson, Zero History (G.P. Putnam's Sons).