First day of the post-BEA, post-Memorial Day early summer, and lots going on. This week’s going to be a bit of a topic-hopper, centered around the industry’s trade show last week.
First of all, I love trade shows, conferences, conventions. Always have. I love going to big halls and seeing huge displays of products, with members of companies standing there anxiously hoping that theirs will be viewed favorably. It’s colorful, energetic (even in down years), and for my own role, kind of a one-stop shopping to have meetings (or just schmooze) with people I typically interact with over email. And I love seeing librarians walking around with bags of ARCs, looking to see whom the publishers are promoting heavily; and reporters chatting up editors in chief next to blown-up book covers; and hearing people who spend their lives thinking about the industry give their opinions about its direction. I feel giddy when I enter the Javits Center (inevitably I also feel warm, as it’s always such a long walk to get there from the subway!). I know I like it an inordinate amount; more than I should, on some level.
And it was interesting: One of my clients sent me a link to a blog that vigorously posited that the publishing industry was still treating digital rights and companies specializing in digital rights as ugly stepchildren, as the white haired old men in charge kept their heads in the sand and pretended that their business was still where it was 20 or 30 years ago. Well there are a couple of issues I need to take with that idea. The first is that many of those decision makers are now women (and have been for quite a while now); and the second is that I feel like it’s an easy shot to say that the publishers are behind, rather than saying that they are starting to think about it.
The first part of this blogger’s problem is that he felt that digital companies, whether publishers or manufacturers, were segregated into a silicon alley, away from the traditional publishers in their own section of the floor. He failed to mention that University Presses, self-published authors, a number of children’s book publishers, and, in fact, traditional publishers themselves, were somewhat clumped together as well. It’s easier to navigate a huge trade show when it’s organized this way. But I saw his point (a bit): digital publishing IS mainstream, and ought not appear to be relegated to a corner where the Boys with Toys can play while the serious business goes on in the main areas.
Except, of course, that everyone went to the digital area. And seminars—full days of seminars—were organized about the subject. And the biggest news of the show, from what I saw and heard, came out of Amazon, where the launch of its publishing unit under Larry Kirschbaum engendered the most animated discussions of the show. Yes, there is still a wariness among literary aesthetes about electronic readers and readings, an almost reflexive, elegiac wistfulness when looking at a gorgeous ARC of a new novel and wondering if you’re holding a relic of an already overtaken version of an industry. And I think a lot of people still feel that they shouldn’t even admit enjoying and appreciating the experience of reading digitally, that it’s disloyal to Art to appreciate progress. But a huge number of people were using their tablets to find their way around the Javits floor, or responding to tweets reminding them that, say, the new Captain Underpants ARC was being given away (I became a rock star when I brought that home), or that Duff McKagen from Guns n Roses was signing ARC’s.
Ultimately, this was a transitional BEA, almost a high school school social, where the traditional publishers and digital folk looked at each other across the gym floor and waited for someone to ask someone else to dance in public, even though they all knew they were going to be steaming up their windows together at the end of the night.
Well, THAT went far afield…
Till next week!