Book Expo America 2014 concluded on Saturday. This was THE event to attend in The U.S. for publishers, booksellers, librarians, authors, and book lovers. I am not a particular lover of trade shows. Having done enough marketing/exhibiting/keynoting prep for a big high-tech company, I’m a little burned out. Still, I took the train into NYC on Friday and loved every minute that I spent at BEA! There was so much going on that I can hardly claim to have experienced the whole show. As a newbie, here’s what I liked most.
1. Book Giveaways – It’s almost impossible to believe, but publishers and authors were giving away books at every turn. Most of the books were Advanced Reader Copies, uncorrected proofs, or otherwise labeled “not for sale,” but the thrill of collecting free books made me excited to be a book lover. Of course, that’s just what all the publishers were hoping for…to attract buyers and readers. Someone reads a book and tells their friends about it, blogs about it, recommends it to a book club, etc. More buzz means more sales. I have to say that if I ever go to another high-tech conference and get a free pen, koozie, or other tchotchke, I might just rebel!
2. Author Encounters – I had only been in the exhibitor area for a couple of minutes when a publisher’s representative asked me if I wanted a signed copy of In the Kingdom of Ice. I had never heard of it, so only glanced at the poster he was holding. Almost immediately, a tagline caught my eye, “Bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers.” Whoa! That was a book about Japanese POWs who had survived the Bataan Death March. I had read the book many years ago when I researched my own family’s history since my uncle had served in the Philippines during World War II. (See my recent past posts on the subject for Memorial Day 2014.)
When I got to the front of the line where Hampton Sides was signing copies of his new book, I took a few selfish seconds to tell him how much I enjoyed Ghost Soldiers, and that my uncle was among the Bataan Death March soldiers. The author appreciated the compliment, likely pleased that one of his books was going to someone that knew his work and not just looking for a freebie. He asked about the fate of my uncle, to which I replied hastily so that I would not hold up the line. I thanked him for honoring our troops as he signed my book, but wish that I had had more time to discuss Ghost Soldiers.
I exited the line with my book, not knowing that I would receive many more free books throughout the day. When I finally studied the cover, I realized that Side’s new book was about polar exploration. Is that possible? I have an entire collection of books, many quite rare, about arctic explorers. How is it that one man could write about two of my primary historical interests, Bataan and the arctic? I turned back to find the author in the crowd, but the book signing had just ended and the author was gone. I felt connected with Hampton Sides. My unexpected encounter would turn out to be the highlight of my BEA experience.
3. Book Surprises – There were a few unexpected gems amidst the torrent of titles. One was a book series “Manga Guide To…” by No Starch Press. The “…” was not for the faint of heart, as physics, relativity, quantum dynamics, biochemistry, and other science and engineering topics rounded out the hard-core collection. The books used manga illustrations to explain complex subjects. The No Starch Press representative explained that some kids could learn the information more easily with the pictures. The argument made sense, and I could imagine kids getting hooked on the pictures and learning science along the way.
4. Book Lovers – It wasn’t a surprise that everyone I met at the conference loved books! I made a point to chat with all the people that I stood next to in line for author signings. Many were librarians that used the books as prizes for their reading groups. I met a woman from Mexico who was writing a book about a Mexican beer mogul and a man who worked in publishing and had attended BEA for the past 15 years. Everyone I met was incredibly enthusiastic about books and looking forward to reading the new title giveaways.
As my 1-day BEA experience ended, I had to carry my books by foot, cab, train, and car, all the way back to Connecticut. But, I’m home now. Let the reading begin!