As we have to close the June 15 issue this week, I am slowly sorting through my notes, but here are some of my impressions of this year’s BookExpo show at the Javits Center in New York City.
The glitz and glamor and the extravagant excess of past BEAs were notably absent this year; there were fewer parties, fewer big-name celebrities (Mary Jo Buttafuoco promoting her July memoir Getting It Through My Thick Skull from HCI; Miracle on the Hudson hero pilot Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger signing blads of his Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters (Morrow, Dec.), co-authored with Jeffrey Zaslow), and fewer giveaways (I managed to score a cool DK pocket totebag, a Google travel alarm clock, and a bright yellow t-shirt that screamed "FWallStreet" to promote financial blogger Joe Ponzio’s FWall Street: Joe Ponzio’s No-Nonsense Approach to Value Investing for the Rest of Us (Adams Media).
The traditional wackiness factor was low key this year as well—the man who wore a toilet seat as a necklace was a no-show; L. Ron Hubbard’s pirates from Galaxy Press were back minus the swinging jazz band of LA; and a scantily dressed lady in feathers and sequins danced the samba accompanied by Brazilian drums to plug a new ebook reader.
On the other hand, librarians sporting bright spring green badges crowded the aisles, although school librarians were identified as red-badged "educators." And there were plenty of green and red floor mats identifying librarian and educator-friendly publishers.Off the show floor there were a number of educational programs aimed at librarians including "Books with Flava", about street lit, and BEA’s terrific first-ever Librarian Shout and Share at which a star-studded panel of eight librarians shared with their audience their top book picks from the show. At the top of their list: David Small’s graphic novel memoir Stitches (Norton, Sept.)—check out an early preview at Scribd. Nora Rawlinson on Early Word calls this THE Book of BEA.
Printed galleys were less plentiful this year and more strictly controlled. You either had to attend a special program hosted by a publisher such as the annual Random House/LJ breakfast or stand in line at assigned times in order to obtain a specific title. No more spontaneously grabbing something that caught your eye. My reviewer Neil Hollands of the Williamsburg Regional Library, VA, noted that this prevented attendees from serendipitiously discovering an unfamiliar author. Most of the people standing in the very long lines for Michael Connelly, Neal Gaiman, Eileen Goudge, and other top names were obviously already fans.
(For additional coverage of BookExpo America 2009, visit the BookExpo America 2009 page of our sister publication, Publishers Weekly)