Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Book Expo 2012: Day 1

Book Expo America, the annual confab where publishers give away thousands of advance copies and canvas bags to booksellers, press and other industry folk began yesterday in earnest when thousands of book lovers stormed the gates inside New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center as if it was the running of the bulls.

Every year, the anticipation grows to a fever pitch as the line to enter gets longer and longer, and then when the guards let everyone in, there’s a mad dash for one’s favorite publisher to see what books they’ll be putting out. Believe me, it doesn’t take long for stacks of books to vanish.

After that first half hour, the whole vibe softens to a much more cordial, relaxed atmosphere. At this stage, attendees roam the aisles, their eyes sweeping the stands for something that looks interesting. A book cover. A familiar author’s name. A bag that looks very gotta-have. A cool flash drive or some other trinket.

In recent years there’s been a push to distribute advance copies as digital books, but that seems to have waned. The people who attend BEA like books, not pixels. Interestingly though, many more publishers this year are no longer printing catalogs of upcoming releases; that material can be found online. (Several people told me they thought that pendulum, too, would swing back.)

The most excitement this year? Justin Cronin, by far, whose sequel to The Passage, The Twelve, hits stores in October. People started lining up an hour early and Ballantine distributed 200 advance copies. The thing is, the line was a lot longer than 200 drooling readers (see photo above left). Also signing books on the first day were Ruth Rendell, Michael Connelly and James Patterson, among many others.

One particularly cool thing for January’s readers? Our own David Abrams’ novel, Fobbit, due from Grove/Atlantic in September, was on display (see lower photo). By the time I got to that booth, the copies were dwindling. (Very cool, huh, David?) Overall, I found BEA’s first day more subdued than that of previous years. But there are two more days for the excitement to build, and it generally does. For me, this event is like being a kid in a candy store -- and everything’s free. Subdued or not, this is thrilling stuff, truly like crack for anyone who loves books as we do.



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