Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the technology gizmos and gadgets at BEA because they are the rock stars of publishing. If publishing is a room, technology is the elephant.
What did I learn at BEA? One item exhibited at the convention was the Espresso Book Machine. As the name suggests, “its something made to order, one at a time, at point of sale, quickly.” That’s the way the machine’s brochure defines espresso. You put in a few “ingredients” (content with four-color book design on software created for the machine), and with much grinding, out of its other end, pops a book–yes, a physical book, in the matter of four minutes. Essentially, it’s an ATM machine that delivers a book rather than cash. The size of a large copier (think Kinkos’ fancy copiers), it prints, binds, and trims a book on demand at the point of sale.
If that doesn’t blow your mind, Cool-er is an e-reader that works in eight languages and can fit in your jacket pocket. (And had cool Samba dancers sashaying to the loud beat of drums on the convention floor as the fancy-stepping and colorfully-costumed women handed out brochures announcing the new reader.) And, by the way, Cool-er was developed in Britain, hence the variety of languages.
Stanza, which is an e-reader available only on iPhones, has 21 fonts the reader can choose from as well as a variety of backgrounds. The makers of the reader found that reading at night is easier on the eyes if you have white print on a black background, but black print on a white background is better during daylight. If you want to create a “mood” background for a book, you can have a wavy black background or something in red for a really hot read. Stanza released in July 2008, and has 1.8 million users and 8 million downloads. Who knew? It was news to me.
What does this mean for the physical book? Books are alive and well, thank you.
The one item I’ve danced around in these reports from BEA is that which brought more than 12,000 people to the show–books. A couple of my observations during the convention were:
- the surprising number of children’s picture books. After years of everyone in the industry proclaiming this a dead zone, I was stunned by the number of releases on display in the booths. I don’t even know what to think about that.
- strong titles on display for the fall season, including plenty of huge banners proclaiming new releases from Debbie Macomber. As a matter of fact, Debbie seemed to have the biggest presence as an author, with lots of ads in the daily paper, lighted posters with her new books, and several signings by her. Dan Brown has a new thriller releasing, and a posthumously published thriller by Michael Crichton is scheduled. Add to that new books by Pat Conroy, Audrey Niffenegger, Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham, Stephen King, and Ted Kennedy. ‘Twill be a very big fall for publishing.
- the migration to publishers’ using e-catalogs and e-galleys. Moody scores as the most innovative deliverer of a catalog. A bookmark with the details of how to access their catalog was all they handed out–and the bookmark was so green, if you planted it in soil, the flower seeds embedded in it would sprout and blossom.
- fewer advance reader copies being handed out from the publishers’ booths. I only had a few books to bring back to the office, and most of those were given out after the editor buzz panel. Although, when I stopped by the Moody booth, I was told that they quickly gave away 300 copies of Latayne Scott’s novel, Latter-Day Cipher, which, as her agent, made me very happy. Fewer ARCs seemed to be a cost-cutting measure by many publishers. HarperCollins decided to give out gift cards that were redeemable for electronic galleys of two titles.
- many publishers had small booths and therefore a small presence on the exhibit floor.
- while the economy clearly dampened enthusiasm among publishers to participate in such an expensive convention, the aisles were crowded and hard to make one’s way down.
- long lines formed quickly to meet authors and receive autographed copies.
That’s the report from the show, folks. All in all, it had plenty of spark and plenty to talk about.
What are your thoughts?