Judging from the one ALA Annual I’ve been to, it’s all about the panels. BookExpo, on the other hand, does not seem to be. I went to five sessions, and I found the two best ones to be the library-focused discussions‚ Tomorrow’s Library in a World of Digits and Librarian’s 2nd Annual Book Shout ‘n’ Share.
In The Future of Food Writing and Cookbook Publishing, moderator Laurie Buckle (editor, Fine Cooking magazine) spoke of the difficulty of catering her magazine and other food writing to all the different skill levels and audiences who may be interested. At this admittedly hard task, the panels I attended struggled. Yes, the library-focused sessions fit in most with what I care about, but I do follow the publishing industry and I picked programs that corresponded with my beats and interests‚ I gotta admit, I didn’t learn much.
The cookbook panel was a strange beast, presenting Apartment Therapy‘s Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan and Tasting Table‘s Nick Fauchald along with New York Times columnist and cookbook writer Melissa Clark and Norton editor Maria Guarnaschelli. This combo of new and old media should have satisfied everyone, but the panel spent much time answering each other’s questions and debating the importance of tested and retested Cook’s Illustrated recipes vs. user-generated content. The New Guidebook Publishing for Tomorrow’s Wired World discussion had reps from Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, and Fodor’s admitting their biggest competition, e.g., Google (who is bidding on a travel software company) and Expedia’s TripAdvisor, weren’t in the room.
Both sets of panelists concluded there needs to be curation of user-generated content by an authoritative voice and that there is still room for print and digital. Have we heard this before? Finally, Millennials and Publishing: Meet the Next Generation turned out to be a window-into-their-world look at students in NYU’s Master of Science in Publishing. Their consuming habits likely weren’t news to much of the fairly young audience.
If BEA isn’t about the panels, what is it for? Keepers of the booths often weren’t eager to pitch to me, and librarians I talked to weren’t always getting warm welcomes either. There need to be session tracks for different interests and different levels of knowledge, and the focus of each session and the panelists need to be delineated more carefully in advance in the programs.