Browsing Book Expo

news, industry newsAs Book Expo America got underway in New York, it seemed that the fastest takeaways were the tote bags.

Who doesn’t need another tote bag for all the advanced readers’ copies of coming books?

Stuffing a canvas bag full of book galleys is a nice old-fashioned ritual that continues at a changing Book Expo (which has a few more bells and whistles, such as newsy video screens on the convention floor and smart phone apps to keep you connected). And even as more reviewers and book-promoting types read their galleys on e-readers, sought-for physical copies (and sometimes languishing ones) are still given out widely in order to build buzz for a book. And booksellers were picking them up, by the tote-bagful.

I myself grabbed one called “Illuminae,” by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It was available for just one hour on the first day – and when I went back to the Penguin Random House booth 40 minutes later, all the other copies were gone. It’s a young- or youngish-adult sci-fi novel (being marketed as a grownup one), and its packaging was perfect: it looked like a real hardcover, but given the “in-crowd” feel of an industry book galley.

As the publishing industry grapples with technological changes, especially with the rise of self-publishing and how to maneuver the e-book marketplace, certain things remain at the industry’s biggest convention. These include author appearances – Lee Child, Jonathan Franzen, Adriana Trigiani, to name just a few – a long lines of booksellers looking to meet and chat with said author.

It’s refreshing to see this old fashioned shoe-leather kind of meet-and-greet, where booksellers fly in from elsewhere to meet with publishing representatives, and look to mingle with their retailing peers to share ideas, swap stories and debate the future of the business.

On the first day of the expo, I noticed a lot of space given over to booths supporting publishing in the Middle East, as well as an enormous set of booths for Chinese publishing businesses.

You have to hand it to publishing: despite change, there’s always hope in the air that a book will become a breakaway and delight millions of readers.

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