2010 Book Expo Adventures

My first day at the BEA I learned a valuable lesson – eat breakfast! As my blood sugar plummeted I began a conversation with a woman in the press room, during which I: 1. mis-pronounced vegetarian; 2. confused David Foster Wallace with Dave Eggers; and 3. proceeded to confuse them both with Jonathan Safran Foers.

Of course I gave her my name and card. I am now officially one of those people who is interviewed on the street and says incredibly stupid things.  That’s O.K. – I’ll own it.

Other than that humbling experience, BEA was AWESOME.  Imagine Comicon or a Star Trek convention for bookworms – a mix of celebrity signings, buyers, sellers, independent presses, big publishing houses, librarians, bloggers, published authors, writers hoping to be published… and one lone guy selling magnetic beads that form a cube (don’t ask because I can’t answer).

Unexpectedly I spent quite a bit of time browsing the booths in the Digital Book Zone on my first day.  One of the more interesting things I came across was Symtio – a format for selling digital & audio books in stores.  It’s  a small, 4″ x 6″ plastic card with cover art on the front; a description of the book and a download code are printed on the back.  In theory, the card can be purchased from a bookshop or received as a galley from a publisher (Harper Collins gave the ebook cards out at their booth in lieu of traditional “book” galleys – at least for some titles).  You can take the card home and go to a website to enter the code (sort of like the iTunes cards from Starbucks).  The entire book will download onto a digital reader or audio device.  It’s a great idea for publishers sending out galleys, small & indie bookshops not affiliated with a digital reader that want a stake in the e- and audio book market…  and convenient for readers like me who still enjoy going into small bookshops to browse.

One disappointment though – Symtio can not be used with an Amazon Kindle.  The fact is, not much is compatible with the Kindle.  Google’s new online bookstore – Google Books – won’t work either.  The Kindle is “proprietary”, several people explained to me.  Even moreso than the Nook, which seems to allow slightly more flexibility (one gentleman from B&N told me, “you can do it, we just make you work for it”).  This, along with the bad press associated with Amazon over the last year, makes me wonder whether the Kindle is destined to go the way of Betamax simply because they don’t play well with others.

So I was forced to try Symtio out on my computer (it works with Windows or Mac) – and I have to say it was pretty fabulous.  It’s necessary to subscribe to Adobe Digital Editions when using a computer, but that only took a moment.  The download was almost instantaneous.  The book on the screen looks great and the interface is simple to use (much easier than an e-reader interface).  Overall, I was very happy with the whole experience and I hope to see more of Symtio in the future.

The Digital Book Zone, predictably, showcased tons of new e-readers.  None of which particularly blew me away.  There was an e-reader that opened like a laptop turned on its side – with a digital ink screen on one side and a computer screen on the other.  There were also several readers, similar to the Kindle or Sony Reader, that used a touch screen and stylus rather than a scroll wheel.  Nothing particularly revolutionary.

There also didn’t seem to be much new in the audiobook category, other than the Symtio cards and PLAYAWAY (which I’d seen before).  PLAYAWAY is a  mp3 player that holds a single, pre-loaded audiobook.  It allows you to bookmark, fast forward, rewind, skip between chapters, – just like a normal mp3 player or iPod.  The company seems to be targeting libraries, and I’d love to see them in my local branch replacing the current cd cases shoved messily onto the shelves.

The rest of my time at BEA was spent exploring  the various publisher’s booths and meeting all my amazing fellow bloggers attending the Book Bloggers Convention – which was by far my favorite part of the week (expect to see BookSexy’s blogroll expand over the next few days).  Before I attended I thought that Book Expo was strictly about the books, and maybe it is (don’t worry, there will be more about those in the weeks and months to come).  But for me, meeting the people in the industry, seeing their enthusiasm and passion for the books they’re publishing, marketing, reviewing and writing is an experience I’m glad I didn’t miss.  So I’d like to put up a special thanks to My Friend Amy, Galleysmith, Maw Books, Linus’s Blanket, MotherReader, The Book Lady’s Blog, and Hey Lady! Whacha Readin’? for all the hard work they did organizing the 2010 Book Bloggers Convention.   Thank you! Thank you! And thank you ladies again!

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Every so often I take a trip into NYC to visit friends.  Ostensibly.  My friends would probably tell you that every so often I take a trip into NYC to drag them from one indie bookshop to another.   (No one complains, but I have detected some good-natured eye rolling. I’m always the first to say that I’m VERY fortunate in my friends).

In honor of the upcoming BookExpo America and the affiliated Book Bloggers Convention (see the sidebar) I’ll be highlighting some  of my favorite NYC Indie Bookshops during the month of May… the first of which is McNally Jackson on Prince Street.

I was over-the-moon excited to discover this new bookshop only 2 weeks ago on one of those aforementioned visits.  How did I find it?  Thank you for asking!  You see, I needed a raincoat.  My BGF and I headed for Soho to do some thrift shopping – and on the way we dropped into the RRL Ralph Lauren Men’s  Store (just because it’s awesome).   I asked a sales person  where the nearest bookshop was located.  He told us to stay on Prince and we’d find one a few blocks down on our left… which is exactly what happened!  (Lesson:  NEVER hesitate to ask locals for recommendations or directions.  New Yorker’s love their city, and love to share it).

So why, on such a short acquaintance, am I singing the praises of McNally Jackson?  Is it the cafe? The comfy chairs conveniently located everywhere?  The blog or the list of author events that has me envious of the locals able to attend on a whim?  What about the nifty bookmark that conveniently has space on the back for notes? (I am a complete bookmark snob, by the way, and McNally Jackson’s is in my Top 10).

Actually, it’s all those things.  Added to that, McNally Jackson has a fantastic selection of International Literature.  International Lit seems to be their niche, with the shelves in fiction organized by authors’ home country.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for their staff is incredibly knowledgeable and friendly.  They patiently helped me track down a copy of Ismail’s Kadare’s Three Arched Bridge (shelved in European Fiction).  I was also looking for Censoring An Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour.  They looked it up on their computer and found out it was between hardcover and paperback printings – the paperback is due out in June, which they offered to pre-order for me. (I managed to score a used copy at the Housing Works before catching my bus home).  I rounded out my purchases with Hilary Mantel’s Eight Months on Ghazzah Street which I was able to find all by myself in British Fiction.

McNally Jackson now forms the third part of what I have dubbed the “Bookshop Triumvirate” – along with The Housing Works Used Bookshop on Crosby Street and The Strand on Broadway.

And remember that raincoat?  Well, my BGF refused to let me leave the city without one.  She found me a short, military style jacket in a trench material that fit perfectly.  I wasn’t kidding, I really am lucky when it comes to friends.

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