All I can say is: Oh my gawd! Books, books, and more books! Feeling a part of this crazy publishing thing for the first time, I wore a perpetual smile on my face as I beheld the amazing landscape of books and people intimately partnered with books.
The first thing I did was make a beeline for the St. Martin’s booth. (If you have never been to the LA Convention Center—and I haven’t—you must appreciate how very big this place is. It’s as big as an airport. Or at least two substantial terminals). Row on row on row, with archways leading to the next publisher family. I spotted the big Macmillan sign which is the parent company of St. Martin’s and many other houses and I was pleased that it seemed to be the busiest, just crammed with people. But this is when I realized that this is indeed a “trade” show. There were small counters behind which sales people stood, ready to pounce where there was the least little interest. Conference tables nestled here and there where the sales staff can reel them in.
At any rate, it really wasn’t the same kind of booth as, say, they have at the Festival of Books. So though I expected to hang around and pitch my own wares it wouldn’t have been appropriate and I would have been underfoot. Instead, I met some of the staff, introduced myself, and asked if I could leave my promo pieces there, which they were glad to take.
After that I wandered the aisles, looking at what was on offer, from DC Comics graphic novels, to Spanish translations, to children’s books, to the huge Ingrams and Baker and Taylor booths, and everything in-between!
Then I ran into Patricia Wynn, of all people (remember, we shared a panel at Bouchercon, Alaska). That was a very pleasant surprise. So nice to run into someone I knew in that whole Goliath of a place.
After wending my way through the main hall, it was eleven by then, but since I had gotten up at 5 am to get me and my hubby going (I had to drop him off at work) and then trek to LA, it was time to eat. I shared a table with a gentleman who was working on becoming a literary agent. We chatted a bit about the ups and downs of the industry and then it was time for me to see about the MWA booth. Met Bob Levinson, reacquainted myself with Margery Flax (again, from Alaska) and a few others. But MWA wouldn’t let me leave my promos at the booth. Tut, tut. Hopefully next year I’ll be signing there.
Since this hall seemed more devoted to education and children’s books, I let myself out and sought out the room for my first panel.
“The Future of Reading” which was touted as a “lively discussion of how social networking and related technology are poised to become the saviors of book publishing...” An editor, publisher, author, and librarian...walk into a bar...no, no. Wait. That's not it. Anyway, it would have been a lively discussion, if moderator Chris Kenneally*, Director, Author & Creator Relations at Copyright Clearance Center, had not interviewed each panelist one at a time instead of allowing a discussion. But no matter. Our moderator quoted a number, saying that there were 277,000 new book titles published in 2007, with POD as a growing presence. So if there is no future in reading, who are reading those books?
Panelists were publisher Paul Dry (forgive my spelling. There were no name plates.) of Paul Dry Books, Anna Maria Alessi from Harper Collins audio and ebooks, Deborah Kovacs Vice President of Publishing at Walden Media and also a children’s author, and the librarian, the lively Irene McDermott.
Paul Dry started things off by talking about the “phenomenon of too-muchness” in America, where every whim is instantaneously met or at least sought after. Overabundance creates distractions—internet, et al—so what does that mean about reading a book from beginning to end?
So what is the future of reading? “The future of reading is as assured as the future of eating,” he said. As long as we find the books nourishing and pass it on to the next generation.
Anna Maria Alessi explained about the new internet TV studio just activated at Harper Collins. The moderator pondered that he thought Harper Collins was a book publisher. Alessi responded by saying that they were “author publishers”, reinforcing what we’ve all been hearing lately that authors, now more than ever, are selling themselves as “brand names”. The importance of a web presence was emphasized yet again. “Authors want to be read,” she said. “That’s where we start the conversation.” The end goal, she explained, is more readership, and if this can be achieved by a podcast interview, a blog, a web site, then that’s what Harper Collins is going to "partner with the author" to help achieve.
When the moderator quoted Steve Jobs as saying that no one reads anymore, Alessi poo-pooed that, intimating that it was more likely Jobs was working on his own publishing scheme. Though she admitted, reading “long books are likely to diminish.” Alessi clarified by saying that getting away from the long book and “unbundling a book is the wave of the future.”
Deborah Kovacs defended Walden Media’s move into movie-making (Holes, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) with the idea that movies are a “ruse to get children to read.” They prefer the kids to read first, of course, then the movie serves as "an afterward."
Irene McDermott did not agree when the moderator asked if libraries were becoming museums. “The exact opposite has occurred,” she contended. “Across the nation, circulation has risen 50-60%--book clubs, internet use.” She said that they have become “co-conspirators” with publishers to help children develop their brains through reading. She agreed that library spaces themselves need to lend themselves to this new era, where the older readers need a quiet area, the youth need to study, do homework on the internet, and to talk with friends. Architecture can remedy that, she said, by physically separating the two groups into separate areas.
Actually, what it was, was a 40-some-odd minute ad for the Kindle, their e-reader. But, this is a trade show, Jeri, so go with the flow a bit. He did make some startling points:
• You can think of a book, and in 60 seconds you can have it and read it from anywhere.
•Their goal is to eventually have every book ever printed in any language available to purchase and downloaded within 60 seconds.
Carol Reedy of Simon and Schuster seemed ready to accommodate. She spoke and said they now have 4,000 e-book titles and plan on getting 5,000 more by the end of the year.
What’s it going to take to get more ebooks on Kindle? “Patience and relentlessness,” says Bezos.
The only tough question Anderson posed to Bezos was when he asked about Amazon’s POD policy on wanting to force small publishers to use their technology or bye-bye on the amazon listing. “In order to be a pioneer,” said the CEO, “you have to be willing to be misunderstood.” It doesn’t make any sense, he explained, to not be able to print POD in their own fulfillment center and marry a POD and standard published books into one shipping box.
There you have it. If you don’t understand that logic you are, apparently, not a pioneer.
And so, my first day came to a close. But tomorrow is another day. I’ll be stopping back for more panels and then an evening at the Magic Castle.
Some other images: Jackie Collin's bus; the librarian lounge with real live librarians corralled inside; and a very creative booth of fantasy books (looks like something from Diagon Alley):
* A correction: Christopher Kenneally contacted me and (among other things) corrected my misspelling of his name (it's correct now). I would like to clarify a few things. He is Director, Author & Creator Relations for Copyright Clearance Center, a non-profit organization that "promotes respect for intellectual property..." Beyondthebook.com "explores issues facing the information content industry..." Thank you, Chris, for sending me these corrections and for being a good sport.