Five Thoughts From My First BEA

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Believe it or not, 2012 was 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!)

 

Everyone in Book Publishing Loves Books

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.

 

Print Still Dominates

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.

Complaints ran the gamut: wi-fi sucks; feels like Wal-Mart (Molly Ringwald told the AP); Digital Zone is “lame” (Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent); etc.

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.

 

Book People Like to Party

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:

Kobo Wants to Turn Writing Into a Game

Safari CEO: Mass-Market E-Book Subscription Service for Consumers ‘Inevitable’

The Two Rules of International E-Book Expansion

Macmillan’s Tor Imprint Launches DRM-Free E-Bookstore at Tor.com

E-Book Adoption in U.S. Nearing 25%, India and Brazil Best New Opportunity

Penguin’s Global View of the E-Book Market: DRM, International, Publishing Process

Hachette COO: Investment in Publishing Tech to Continue as Industry Standards Splinter

More coverage from the DBW Expert Publishing Blog

More coverage from the Digital Book Wire

 

Jeremy Greenfield

About Jeremy Greenfield

Jeremy Greenfield is the editorial director of Digital Book World. Opinions presented here are his own. Read more of his work here.

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7 thoughts on “Five Thoughts From My First BEA

  1. “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.”

    Nope. The Wifi at the Boston Convention center is great and the wifi at CES is usually decent. lso, what you may have missed is that it’s not just the Wifi. In past years both Wifi and 3G sucked at the Javitz center.

    And you forgot to mention the difficulty in getting to the Javitz;that’s another reason many of us hate it.

  2. Hi Jeremy,

    I’m glad that you enjoyed BEA! I do have to disagree with you about the Javits Center–it’s worse than most big-city conference centers, for several reasons:

    1) You can’t attend shows there without going up the stairs, down the stairs, up the escalator, up more stairs, down the escalator, where the heck am I?, let’s try that escalator, etc. The physical layout of the building is really poor.

    2) Trying to get a cab from the Center around 5 p.m. is an exercise in futility.

    3) All of the hotels within close walking distance to the Center are old, tourist-style hotels. The better hotels are impossible to get to without a long walk or a cab ride.

    New York City and State keep trying to replace the Javits Center; someday, they might succeed.

  3. Food tip – escape the Javits and walk five minutes south along 11th to 30th street. There’s a Hamptons Market Place with fresh salads and juices, a place to sit and nice, friendly staff! Glad you enjoyed BEA!

  4. You clearly didn’t go there to work. It looks as though you were there to drift around and do the old la-di-dah. Anyone trying to work at BEA and within the confines of the Javits will confidently tell you that it is the worst of all the major international venues. The lack of quality in inexcusable for both BEA, NYC and the Javits Center itself.

    For you to suggest that the criticism is harsh from the privileged position of someone not actually working and seemingly attending most post-fair drinks than actual meetings (you know, the work bit) is a bit rich. The place sucks. Big time. BEA needs to get out of the money sucking machine that is NYC and go where can actually use new inventions like that new inter-web thing. A place actually conducive to work which seems to have been lost on the writer above.

    • Thanks for the note, Nigel. I have to respectfully disagree with you.

      I was at BEA from Monday through Wednesday (starting with a full day at the Pub Launch conference) and in that time filed and published nearly 30 stories on DigitalBookWorld.com, seven of which were longer and more fleshed out than the others, which were Digital Book Wire posts.

      So, while I wasn’t working as a bookseller or publisher, I had responsibilities of my own and, trust me, many, many, many meetings.

      I will admit I may not worked as hard as you or some others there (my hours were 8AM to 8PM or so — and, yes, those last few of the day were spent at cocktail parties), but I was certainly working.

  5. Actually, I will also respectfully disagree with you but also apologise for an overly terse note. Having to put up with the BEA at the Javits is an annual headache and reading this so soon after the migraine inducing made my blood boil. Now that the event is firmly behind us my anger has subsided somewhat.
    The event is an embarrassment when compared to other book fairs. Poor facilities, massive costs, expensive subsistence overheads in NYC. Although Frankfurt pushes it for profiteering and London is just London. Old and overpriced.

    • No apologies necessary, Nigel.

      I haven’t been to other book fairs (yet), so I have no basis for comparison. I guess I was just seeing it through the eyes of someone without experience and ready to accept.

      I will agree with you, somewhat, however, regarding the profiteering — $4.50 for a bottle of soda is a bit insulting.

      Anyway, thanks for your notes and let’s talk again when I have a few more book fairs under my belt.

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