Five Thoughts From My First BEA
I can hardly believe it myself – the three days passed so quickly and with so much excitement that I can barely remember it all!
To make sure that all that was doesn’t fade from my memory, I thought I’d put down here some of my personal feelings and recollections about the event. If you want to read more of what you’re used to from Digital Book World about the event, I’ve put many links down below to our comprehensive coverage.
So, here are some impressions coming off one of the busiest weeks of my life:
I Love Trade Shows
There was a definite buzz in the air. A critical mass of book people had gathered, galleys were flying and the place was ready to go nuclear.
As an online media guy, I’d like to think that the Internet and mobile communications have taken over the way we share information, but going to an event like BEA just goes to show you that nothing so far has come close to replacing good, ol’ face-to-face interaction. I felt this way at Digital Book World in January and the feeling was there again this week.
As much as we try to deliver to your desk (or device) everything you need to know to do your job as a digital publishing person, we just can do it all through cables or over the airwaves. (Shameless plug: Come to our new Discoverability and Marketing event in New York in September and tell your friends!)
I’m not talking about in a 50 Shades of Grey sense (although, knowing people, I’m sure there are some that love books in that way – ew). I’m talking about the light in everyone’s eyes at the show.
Now, to be fair, I didn’t look into everyone’s eyes. That would have been hard to do – and creepy. But I did run into dozens of people I’ve known for almost a year in my very short time here at DBW and they were transformed.
Steely business executives at major publishers looked and sounded more like star-struck teeny-boppers at times as we toured the aisles of books together. And I loved it.
First off, as a reporter, it’s always good to talk to people when they’re happy, excited and upbeat. They’ll often tell you about interesting stories and upcoming news without you having to work too hard for it. (Shameless plug: Stay tuned to DBW for all the latest news in the digital book space.)
Second, how inspiring to work in an industry where people are there truly for the love of the game. When I was a careers editor at Dow Jones, we talked to a lot of finance folks about their careers, and it was rare to come upon one that was truly passionate about what they did every day. Not so in books, where the opposite is rare.
At Digital Book World, we’re primarily concerned with what’s happening in the exciting space of e-books and digital publishing. It would be silly for us to think, however, that print isn’t still the big show. It is. At most publishers (digital-only aside), print still dominates balance sheets.
That’s changing, of course (and helping you through that change is part of our mission), but the printed word still dominates this business – and probably will for at least a few more years .
That said, as a lover of print books myself, I was absolutely inspired by all the publisher displays – everything from the compounds erected by Penguin, Perseus and other biggies to the single-booth displays of the small, specialty publishers. Every square inch was lovingly curated, every detail attended to and every pitch pitch-perfect. Bookselling on this grand scale is an art-form.
Javits Center Sucks?
A lot of the BEA-recap stories this week have piled on criticism of the Javits Center, the cavernous convention hall that BEA calls home.
Fine, it’s not great, I guess. But is it really that bad?
It was a bit crowded, sure, but that kind of added to the fun. And, yes, the Digital Zone was far off to the side, but not everything can be in the middle. A lot of great publishers were off to the side, too.
And the wi-fi.
Let me tell you something about wi-fi at every conference ever: It’s going to be worse than you want it to be. This is as close to a law of conferences as there is.
I might just be too new to know any better, but I only had one real complaint about Javits, although I suspect it’s no better anywhere else: the food.
The food court was too full, not very good and very overpriced. I understand that I’m a captive audience, but $4.50 for a bottle of soda just makes me angry.
From June 4 to June 7, I went to eight parties. Over three days, it was exhausting. In the long term, it’s completely unsustainable. So while it was great fun at the time, I’m glad it’s over.
So many thanks to all the companies that hosted me and many others and provided that oh-so-important social lubricant (booze) for after-hours schmoozing, deal-making and fun-having.
I hesitate to end this post with any negativity, but just one note on the parties: If you’re a business person and you’ve worked hard all day at the show and want to let loose with your co-workers on the dance floor, please remove your sports coat and tie before you do; you look weird dancing in full-on biz-garb it and you’ll feel a lot better without it – and so will I.
Digital Book World coverage of BEA: