Robust BEA hums after mid-week move

<p>It was a re-energised Book Expo America, the best for quite a while. As Bloomsbury's George Gibson noted, nobody is feeling especially &quot;robust&quot;, but booksellers and media turned up and the show went on. There were no questions this year about its continued existence.&nbsp; The ash cloud helped: internationals came to New York to do the business they could not do in volcanically-challenged London. The rights centre, which had seemed anaemic in the past few years, looked healthy and humming. </p>
<p>Moving the fair from weekend to mid-week&mdash;something that delighted a family man like Hachette's David Young&mdash;was a smart move. Ditto cramming the show on to one floor, which worked, as Richard Curry of Miles Kelly Publishing observed, &quot;to make it feel busier, more intense&quot;. </p>
<p>The one-floor re-invention was also a way to make exhibition-space shrinkage look good, a response to the many publishers who had opted to save money. Giant Random House reprised last year's huddle of free-standing counters; authors autographed there while publishers had appointments in a meeting room elsewhere. Macmillan returned with a similar two-pronged strategy, as did Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, while others pared down to meeting rooms or rights-centre tables only. </p>
<p>Harper again replaced expensive ARC giveaways with Symtio cards. Probably the most noticeable change was in Scholastic's presence: it used to be hefty, but this year the com-pany had no booth, and some Scholastic- meet-ups took place at the Javits - Starbucks.<br />
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<b>Large Irish presence</b><br />
Although Irish visitor Michael O'Brien, of Dublin's O'Brien Press, found the extent of the shrinkage &quot;frightening&quot;, it was &quot;a great fair to walk around, very accessible&quot;. He didn't miss the lower-level &quot;graveyard&quot;.</p>
<p>O'Brien was a member of a larger-than-usual Irish contingent, which for the first time received government grants to help to forge trade with the US. A lot of the &quot;razzmatazz&quot; had disappeared, he noticed&mdash;fewer parties, fewer galleys, fewer give-aways&mdash;a more &quot;serious&quot; fair for a more serious time.</p>
<p>New York executives like Young from Hachette and Random's Gina Centrello were happy with the exhibition floor being open for two days instead of three, but foreign visitors disagreed. The Publishers Association's Gloria Bailey said the British found it &quot;very expensive to come just for two days&quot;. Arcadia's Richard Joseph, who ran Books, etc. in London before moving to South Carolina, added, &quot;there was not enough time for serendipity, and serendipity is the most important part of BEA&quot;. </p>
<p>&quot;Even though 60% favoured two days, it was a deal-breaker for those who needed more,&quot; admitted fair director Steve Rosato. The exhibition will return to a three-day format in 2011. Of course, seen another way, BEA was four days: day one devoted to a self-publishing conference, attendees of which had to pay separately; day two, panels co-sponsored by BEA with the IDPF, ABA, AAP, Library Journal, etc; and two days of exhibits and more panels.<br />
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<b>Self-publishing tsunami</b><br />
Yet in a year when the tsunami of self-publishing had spawned the pre-fair conference, and B&amp;N announced practically on the eve of the fair that it, too, would join Amazon et al riding the wave, one of the country's well-known book advocates, bestselling author and National Public Radio star Garrison Keillor, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that &quot;publishing is about to slide into the sea&quot; courtesy of self-publishing and the digital revolution enabling it.</p>
<p>Amid the aisles and aisles of print, it was again the digital unknowns that seemed to monopolise the conversation&mdash;the tipping point, copyright, pricing, marketing, agency and royalty what-ifs that had had their first airing at the c.e.o. panel. There was &quot;excitement&quot; from the likes of Open Road's Jane Friedman, Sourcebooks' Dominique Raccah (&quot;opportunities for publishers have never been larger&quot;), and young entrepreneurs; for others, like Farrar, Straus &amp; Giroux's Jonathan Galassi, there was nostalgia for a known world that had evolved and worked well for hundreds of years. Despite Apple, Amazon and the agency model dominating talk, Google was busy presenting itself as the force that can make everything connect, via its Google Editions. Many claims were made, among them: Google Editions will provide publishers with a bundling option; it will provide a &quot;universal library&quot; for consumers; it will provide &quot;seamless&quot; reading between devices. But one large obstacle was acknowledged in response to a question: &quot;Google -Editions won't be available on Kindle; Amazon will not be one of the resellers.&quot;</p>
<p>But &quot;we'll all know a lot more a year from now&quot;, Bloomsbury's George Gibson concluded. &quot;As long as the installed base of e-readers is growing, e-books will grow. But we also have to wonder, if people are buying an e-reader and a whole lot of e-books, will they at some point ask: &lsquo;How can I keep buying? I can't read them all.' Might that be a pattern going forward? We don't yet know.&quot;</p>
<p>Meanwhile, traditional retailers are trying to fight back and position themselves to keep that experience in the store. And the feeling on the floor was that excellent indies will indeed survive (the crystal ball seemed cloudier when it came to survival strategies for bricks-and-mortar chain stores).</p>
<p>Vivian Jennings, owner of one of the country's best-known bookstores, Kansas City's Rainy Day Books, was heard to comment about this BEA: &quot;We're circling the wagons. Everybody's banding together.&quot; </p>
<p>David Young, firing on all e-fronts, was also nothing if not mindful about how books are still made in the real world&mdash;today. &quot;We're giving books to booksellers the old-fashioned way. They love it.&quot;<br />
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<b>BEA 2010 Buzz Box</b><br />
Here are some of the &quot;buzzed&quot; titles of the fair:<br />
<i>The Passage</i> by Justin Cronin (Ballantine); <i>The Room</i> by Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown); two novels about primates and humans, <i>The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore</i> by Benjamin Hale (Twelve) and <i>Ape House</i> by Sara Gruen (Spiegel &amp; Grau); <i>Juliet </i>by Ann Fortier (Ballantine); <i>The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer</i> by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner); and<i> West of Here </i>by Jonathan Evison (Algonquin). <br />
And, after their terrific breakfast appearances, mention must be made of John Grisham's <i>An Innocent Man</i>, Mary Roach's <i>Packing for Mars</i>, and Jon Stewart's <i>Earth: A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race</i> (Grand Central). As for fellow-presenter and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Stewart spoke for many in the overwhelmingly liberal crowd when he quipped: &quot;Don't make me like you.&quot; Rice did, of course: her memoir<i> Extraordinary, Ordinary People</i> (Crown), wisely limits itself to her parents, childhood and youth, and ends before she ever said hello to Washington.<br />