Last week, the greater book industry erected a sprawling microcosm of itself inside the Javits Center, flung open the doors, and sank into a welter of bibliophilic chaos.
Book Expo America takes place once a year in Manhattan's massive convention center. Publishers and other book-related companies from all over the globe set up booths and display their titles, showcasing highlights from their upcoming lists. Very important people meet with other very important people to do very important things. Distinguished writers, artists, and publishing professionals take to stages throughout the building and hold forth on topics from the craft of writing to the direction of the book sector's various digital facets. Cookbook authors stage demonstrations. Creators sign advance copies of their books for lines of eager readers stretching across the show floor. Savvy publishers give out tote bags emblazoned with their logos, knowing that attendees need something to carry all those books in. Occasionally, famous animals who have starred in books make appearances. (I hear Grumpy Cat was there to promote his new book, and I missed him. Woe unto me.)I'd liken the experience to nothing so much as stepping physically into the internet. Information swirls around you in staggering quantity and breadth. The show floor represents a pretty delightful sampling of human experience, schools of thought, and areas of expertise and interest. In the space of a few minutes' walk, you'll see Lego sculptures, handsomely-bound shoebox-sized reference tomes, memoirists elaborating on their stories before rapt audiences, volumes of meticulous scholarly research, origami artists teaching attendees how to fold outlandish creatures, giant nature photography, artisanal cupcakes, and people laughing together over children's books about unicorns. Librarians abound; I had the good fortune to chat with several over the course of my day at the conference, and affirm my longstanding assertion that librarians are some of the coolest people in the world.
For the first two days of the conference, admission is open only to members of the publishing industry. On the third day, however, BEA welcomes members of the public, and often schedules some of its most exciting events for their arrival. This year's conference is over, but I encourage anyone who loves books and can make it to NYC to consider attending next year. And if you do plan to be there, drop me a line in the comments! I'm always happy to say hi.
Image Credits:1st image – Shutterstock.com/Elena Schweitzer; 2nd image – Shutterstock.com/sahua d; 3rd image – Shutterstock.com/Vladimir Melnikov