Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Expo!

Where to begin?

This, is, of course, the question I asked myself over and over during my first time at Book Expo America.

I've been to ALA's annual conference before, so I'm not unfamiliar with the concept of the large conference, but BEA is something else entirely.
I got in line bright and early on Wednesday morning to get into the exhibit area; we were herded into the HarperCollins booth and there it seemed like the crowd just stopped still as people pawed over giveaways of books, totes, t-shirts and even umbrellas. From there, it was slow going as I tried to make my way to booths on my list. I came prepared with a list of booths to visit but I was not prepared for the sheer masses of people going this way and that. Things got worse if there was a signing line- thick snakes of people just standing still in the middle of everything.

But once I got used to the crowds, there was so much to see and do. I was there as much as a librarian as as a blogger. I work for the Association of Jewish Libraries and I'm a volunteer organizer of the spring conference of the New England branch of the Association; therefore I had professional as well as personal tasks to which to attend. I picked up catalogs and galleys for the conference, and talked to anyone I could about AJL and the work I do for them.

One big issue at BEA was the author signings. As I planned my trip, I decided to avoid the signings as much as possible. I figure, I live in Boston, where we get lots of good author events; most people I'd be interested in will come here sooner or later. So I put one signing on my calendar (The Debba, in the Other Press booth) and left the rest to serendipity. I did not, I told myself, come here to stand in line all day. I ended up going to one other signing at Other Press and then ran into Paul Auster, a favorite since college, in the Macmillan booth.

Other publishers I talked to included Random House, Europa Editions, New York Review of Books, Jewish Lights, and more. I also tried to meet up with Twitter friends and other bloggers; I ran into my friend Allison, a New York City librarian, at Other Press, and got to say hi to Melissa Krug (@permanentpaper on Twitter) at her corporate booth.

One of the highlights of the day was when I got to meet Steve Sheinkin, author of the Rabbi Harvey series of graphic novels, at the Jewish Lights booth.

I also attended Librarians' Book Buzz, a new-titles presentation held speed-dating style; we librarians sat at round tables while publishing reps from different companies came around and presented their new titles to us in a forum where we could ask questions and chat more informally. It was a really nice alternative to the usual lecture-style presentation.

Wednesday night I attended the book-blogger reception at the historic Algonquin Hotel, sponsored by HarperCollins. It was a great evening and I got to meet a lot of bloggers as well as some publicists and even an author or two- Alix Strauss, Simon Van Booy and more were in attendance.

The next day I was back at it, beginning in the morning with the Adult Author Breakfast emceed by Jon Stewart. Condoleeza Rice, John Grisham and Mary Roach rounded out the panel.

More exhibits, talking and walking followed breakfast. I spent some time with Susan Dubin, President of the Association of Jewish Libraries and we toured children's' exhibitors and got a poster signed by Mo Willems and a book signed by David Wiesener.

The Adult Author Luncheon followed, hosted by Patton Oswalt and including Christopher Hitchens, William Gibson and Sara Gruen. Oswalt was hilarious- I think I have to get his book, when it comes out in January, and Gruen offered some fascinating anecdotes about her research into Bonobo monkeys for her new book.

After lunch, Susan and I attended a small-group meeting of librarians with Macmillan CEO John Sargent. Susan and I were invited by Macmillan Library Marketing, along with a group of librarians, to talk about electronic publishing and libraries with Sargent, who was involved in a well-publicized dispute with Amazon earlier this year. It was a fascinating discussion!

As for the rest of Thursday, I spent a little more time walking the floor but as the show wound down, I shipped out my boxes and said my goodbyes and took a much-needed break. I went to "Librarian's Shout 'n' Share," in which librarians shared their favorite upcoming titles and added a few to my own lists. I spent some time at the book blogger reception held immediately after the show and in preparation for Friday's Book Blogger Con. Afterwards, I met up with my friend Jean for dinner at Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man and had a burger and some nice fondue for dessert.
Overall? It was a great show. I did a lot of work and had a lot of fun- and discovered some great books. You can read about Book Blogger Con here and see the books I picked up here!