The New England Book Show celebrated two major anniversaries at Symphony Hall in Boston on May 9. The annual award gala, which recognizes excellence in book design and manufacturing in New England, turned 60, while its host, Bookbuilders of Boston is now in its 80th year.

Over 250 attendees were present to view the winning titles and recognize Tom Plain, recipient of the organization's W.A. Dwiggins Award. Plain, who is v-p of book publishing sales at King Printing Company, Inc., in Lowell, Mass., was honored for his contributions to the book community in New England.

Accepting the award, he called on publishers to remain committed to printing physical books while embracing new technologies to produce them. “Many of us have fond memories of the old ways of book making, but that doesn’t mean we ought to sentimentally cling to them,” said Plain, who is past president of Bookbuilders of Boston. “To do so can only make print books unaffordable and less available.”

This year’s winning titles included the children’s illustrated book Du Iz Tak? (Candlewick), the reflowable e-book The Red Rooster Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), the professional/non-illustrated title Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It (Chelsea Green), and Mosaik (Vista Higher Learning) in the El-Hi category.

Standing among the displays, author Kurt Ankeny held a copy of his graphic novel, In Pieces: Someplace Which I Call Home. Ankeny designed his book himself, despite having no background in book design. “As a self-published comic artist,” he said, “you have to learn the ropes.” The title won first place in the Graphic Novels category.

Bookbuilders of Boston was founded in 1937 to bring members of the regional book publishing and manufacturing industries together. As part of that effort, the organization created the New England Book Show in 1957. Current Bookbuilders president Iris Amelia Febres spoke about her ongoing mission to bring new faces into the group.

Eight decades of institutional knowledge and history have helped the effort to recruit new members. "There’s a lot of legacy to work with in this organization," said Febres, noting that member dues increased 23% from 2015 to 2016. The group currently includes over 115 individual and 75 corporate members.

Plain says the growth is visible. “This organization was for many years mostly printing, production, and manufacturing people. The group has [now] expanded into more editorial and marketing people, more content-focused stuff. That’s what publishing is really about.”