June 5, 2007
News & Opinion: We're back from BEA
Last week 30,000 booksellers flooded New York City's Javits Center to attend the annual Book Convention (known to insiders as BEA). This is where people wait in endless lines for an autograph, where people compare their tradeshow loot like Halloween candy (in this case, advance copies of books), and where Stephen Colbert, Rosie O'Donnell, LL Cool J and Khalid Hosseini can be seen under one roof. With 90-degree New York heat and a temperamental air conditioner, booksellers struggled to stay cool. Beads of sweat piled on foreheads as the hunt for the book of the year commenced. BEA is a book lover's dream. As Rebecca and I sat listening to an author panel with Colbert as the MC, Hosseini, Ken Burns and Lisa See, surrounded by booksellers, I couldn't help but study those around me. The booksellers of the world are a unique bunch. In an industry as old as time, these are some of the most knowledgeable folks in the world. The folks who can converse about authors and book titles like most people converse about the weather. They are the distributors of knowledge, the purveyors of stories, and sellers of history. Who else can influence and educate the masses more than this set? In that context we went about our BEA routine -- that of meeting with publishers and authors from early morning to evening dinners. Here are a few of the highlights. It started with Chris Anderson's unveiling of his new business: BookTour.com where authors and audiences meet. Authors can register where they will be and their topic of choice; audiences can request authors to come visit. It's in Beta and has a lot of potential. Alan Greenspan's book is due out this fall. And to the dismay of many publishers, Google is still pushing their BookSearch. We enjoyed a picnic with Master Picnic-er Seth and celebrated his NYT bestseller. Overall, a great trip. And now it's back to the grindstone.