Wednesday was the first day the trade show floor opened. I know there were people lined up at 9am to be first through the door, and first on the floor to dive into the fray; I was not one of them. I have gone through Swagopause thank you very much. The godsends of course were in the thick of it (and have the sore shoulders now to prove it.)
Once again I was astonished by "no books at BEA." In years past, right up till 2009 in fact, most publishers had stacks and stacks of books in their booths. They pressed them into your hands. On Sunday afternoon, traditionally the last day of the show, they'd beg you to take them rather than haul them home.
I never thought I'd be one of those people who moaned about the good old days of publishing, but damn I do miss the books.
I miss the books because I actually love books. The touch, the feel, the look, the smell. I don't revere them as sacred objects but I love them. And sheets of cardboard with code to access an ebook galley isn't a book. Electronic screens showing book covers are not books. They aren't tactile.
I pray print doesn't die because the death of print books is the death of reading as a tactile experience. And if print does die, I hope it's after I'm dead, cause frankly there are a couple books I want in the sharcophagus in case the line to discuss things with St. Peter is going slowly.
Speaking of death, if a meteor had hit the north end of the Javits Center at 3:30pm a significant portion of the membership of AAR would be looking for book proposals on how to survive a meteor. The panel on Enhanced E-books drew a sea of agents, all of us interested in what enhanced e-books are.
Much like the panel on apps the day before, I started out knowing nothing. I know what an ebook is; I own more than a few. What's an "enhanced ebook?" And how is it different than an app?
The answer is no one else really knows either. Publishers selling into the academic and library market have been publishing books that have more than text components for years, but they are usually encyclopedias or reference works. And libraries buy a subscription to the work, not the actual work itself.
This panel raised more questions than it answered, but it got us asking questions and gave us all a sense there's a lot more to be said on the subject. It was terrifically interesting and thanks to Jeff Kleinman for a great job as moderator. (Remember Jeff Kleinman?)
At the close of the day, I swam over to a favorite bar on Ninth Avenue with a bevy of other sharks, and drank enough Mai Tais to make me float home. Mai Tais 10; Shark 0.
I may love my job---at this point I can't remember what it is. Or who I am. Or how to read.