My first Book Expo America

Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade

From Wikimedia Commons.

I went for work, of course.Our assignment was to meet with middle to small sized trade publishers to talk about ebooks and business models, make contacts, share expectations, and identify obstacles. We came away with a lot of good information and ideas, which are discussed in Carol Anthony’s e-content blog post.

But in this personal note, it was weird talking about ebooks when there were so many print books around! Sure, there are a lot of books in libraries, in bookstores, or at ALA conference exhibits, but not like in this extravaganza. Imagine well-crafted displays everywhere, piles of books, ribbons and banners, huge house-size posters of David Balducci, publisher swag, and people — lots of people.

Who cares about ebooks! Long live print!

It was hard to concentrate on ebooks at times, because the exhibit hall was loud, and did I mention— there were all of these books around! Pretty, colorful books; darling children’s books; gardening books; a bunch of recipe books that I wanted; and of course, cute photos of puppies and kittens on some of the book covers. Don’t get me wrong. I love books, but …I could not wait to get out of there.

On the last day, I arrived early to meet with a representative from Sourcebooks. We planned to meet at the Sourcebooks exhibit. Already, there were lines of people outside of the exhibit hall. I then learned that registrants have a limited opportunity to grab free books each morning when the exhibits open. There were several guards positioned, anticipating a frenzy. Everyone was pretty excited, and ready to run.

When the exhibits did open, the mass rush ensued. One contingent of women dashed past by me, their lieutenant yelling “Go to HarperCollins!”  I tried to get out of the way but not before I was bumped from behind firmly on my right side. Due to the ridiculously heavy bag I had over my shoulder, the blow was magnified to such an extent that I twirled a full 360 degrees, but remained standing ….and still in everybody’s way. I could hear breathing down my neck. “Go! Go! Move out of the way!” (Some people even cursed).

Luckily, Sourcebooks was only half way up the exhibit aisle so I was relatively unscathed, but some were not so lucky. Later in the day, I did see one woman down… and she was carrying a cane.

Oh the humanity!

Apparently, Book Con is even more intense, making Book Expo America look like a ride in the park. Print is alive, books are beautiful, and free books —they can be dangerous.

About Carrie Russell

Carrie Russell is the Director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP). Her portfolio includes copyright, international copyright, accessibility, e-books and other public policy issues. She has a MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a MA in media arts from the University of Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at crussell@alawash.org.

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