Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BookExpo: Day One Tuesday

Publishers have been known to be a bitchy lot but this year most of the bitching on day one seemed to be focused on the intermittent and or ineffectual wireless access on site at Javits. Perhaps the LA Times' Jacket Copy blog put it best: With so many writers, the 3G clogs like the 405 -
With New York's Javits Center filled with most everyone in publishing -- the staffs of major houses, representatives from bookstores across the country, authors, self-publishing houses, Scientologists (L. Ron Hubbard was an author), academic publishers, even media types like me -- capturing a 3G signal long enough to get a blog post online has been a challenge. We're all writers, after all.
Typical of conferences going back as far as I can remember is the requisite: What is The Future of [fill in the blank] and unsurprisingly it was eBooks this year and the seminar was written up nicely by Ed Champion:
“Publishing does not know how to market ebooks yet,” said Schnittman. “You’re looking at bestsellers tracking with bestsellers. Everything that we’re marketing in the stores is selling just as well.” I became skeptical of Schnittman when he started clenching his left hand, a gesture reminding me of some dodgy villain from a melodrama. Schnittman liked to talk quite a bit.

“Let’s be honest with ourselves,” continued Schnittman. “We’ve never marketed backlist before.”

These rather assumptive generalizations had me wondering if Schnittman had ever settled his precious hands onto the raw joys of genre or contemplated the way in which an author winning an award often results in backlist titles being repackaged. And what about presses like the University of Chicago Press, finding new life for Anthony Powell and Richard Stark?


When Turvey asked why all the book recommendation engines sucked, he allowed Schnittman to fall into his Socratic trap. (The unvoiced assumption: what is a bookseller but the ultimate book recommendation engine?)

“I think people do use it,” huffed Schnittman, when Turvey brought up the failed Genius feature in iTunes. “You use it with a caveat that it sucks.”

Then he got a little defensive. “You in the world of algorithms, you’ll figure out something theoretically better and better.” He then suggested that “the tail was wagging the dog,” before attempting to retract this because he had “used it yesterday. Nobody quote me on that one.”

I kept wondering why this apparent professional was more concerned with l’esprit de l’escalier rather than legitimate ideas. But at least he wasn’t as bad as Close, who again declared her willingness to argue in lieu of a legitimate argument: “I would argue we have always cared deeply about our consumers.” But for Close, that care has more to do with “buzz meters” and point-of-sale data.

Does the emperor have any clothes? Much more of the above from his post.

Over at Paid Content Laura Hazard Owen commented on the same session:
Though none of the panelists, publishers all, were ready to say they don’t care about consumers—Random House Digital President Amanda Close immediately responded that “we have always cared deeply about our consumers”—they admitted that they’re facing stiff challenges in getting readers to discover new e-books.
If you've been frustrated in trying to get hold of show dailies for shows like BookExpo, Frankfurt and LBF perhaps the Digital version of the BEA Show Daily that uses the Exact Editions system

And on the heals of yesterday's announcement from Kobo about their new touch screen eReader that continued to generate a lot of commentary, B&N announced a new version of their Nook. Whereas the Kobo seemed to generate digital oh's and arh's all day, the Nook seemed to generate not a lot. Having said that some non-industry commentators such as Mashable seemed to view the growing B&N eReader story as evidence of the imminent demise of the Kindle. Which of course is laughable.

Noted twitter comments from the day included:

@ Sitting here staring at my useless netbook wishing I could grab the wifi and smack it around a little

@ China mobile is key, mobile is in every far removed corner of the country, in areas where no other tech has penetrated.

@ Chinese domestic authors getting much bigger advances than foreign authors get, even $1 million, very competitive

RT @ebooknewser's account of the BN reveal of its touchscreen device. It's $10 more than the

@ My thoughts on where Trade publishing and the value chain is right now >> No New Normal - The Value Web:

Stats in digital content / ebook use

BEA Video Interviews: Oren Teicher, CEO, American Booksellers Association |

LinkDAY 2 - Wednesday
Setup Monday

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