BEA (or How Digital Inspires…)

by Adam on June 5, 2010

I’d go so far as to say that Book Expo America last week was a reawakening of the publishing spirit (if digital hasn’t already brought some new wakefulness to publishing in general…although what we’ve awakened is yet to be known). Never have I seen such a crowded convention space, owing just as much to this year’s more compact layout and narrow aisles as to the overall enthusiasm and interest of those in attendance. I believe we’ve all had an opportunity to lament the loss of an extra day at the Expo, although thankfully cooler minds have prevailed and next year will offer a return to days of yore.

In any case, what I think was most interesting about BEA this year was the confluence of both the print and the digital. The timing of both IBPA’s Publishing University and the IDPF conference couldn’t have been better, drawing huge crowds of digital publishing folks to the Javit’s Center in time for BEA. And you can bet that those same folks ended up at the booths the likes of Aptara, Copia, Zinio, as well as publishers and printers of all shapes and sizes.

While the experience of one person is by no means indicative of the entire show, I can safely say I was busy the entire time (except for the occasional lunch break sponsored by our ever-gracious book distributor). In all, roughly around 30 meetings transpired, either in our half-booth or somewhere around the show floor. As I walked around BEA, I noticed the throngs of people lined up in wait for book signings by authors…and they weren’t bringing their tablets either. These were real for-live books they were holding. My how times have stayed roughly the same! I was struck though by the signs that read “Kindly please leave $1 per book for signings” and thought to myself that publishers has made a go, unsuccessful, of selling books and were now resorting to donations.

Overall though, I do believe it was digital that united us – even though attendance was down this year, there was a palatable excitement in the air as people discussed the future of our world. And of course, we couldn’t come to specific conclusions (much like a good book, who wants to ruin the ending of this story?), but the consensus seemed upbeat.

All I know is that I look forward to next year and the full three days to get things done – that is, unless they switch to a tele-conference before the year is out.

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