Looking at Book Expo


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People who came to Book Expo at the Javits Center on foot from the east -- and who looked up -- saw this massive iPad billboard hanging up above. Would iPads be as much in evidence inside the convention, I wondered?

It was impossible to get a count of iPads or Kindles or Nooks because, just a few hours after the floor opened, crowds were filling the aisles. I tried to get a picture of the people who’d been lured to the Disney booth by a “Tron” poster, but the volume of attendees eager to pick up swag -- which looked, to me, like a sparkly bracelet -- kept jostling me. So my photos were blurry.


At the end of the day, people gathered in a large front-facing hall for a networking session. Wait, isn’t this whole thing networking sessions?

Even the panels have an decided networking component. When I sat down for the “Are E-Books Good for Authors?” panel, the woman next to me immediately asked if I was an agent. The panel was agent-heavy; it was moderated by agent Simon Lipskar, above left, and included Brian Defiore, next to him. But it also included digital publishing heavyweights Brian Redmain from Harper Collins (far right) and Madeline Macintosh (third from left),; Sourcebooks’ Dominique Raccah (center) and author Stephen Baker. Trying to figure out the balance in the room, Lipskar asked for a show of hands: There were many agents present, a bit fewer from publishing houses, with a smattering of booksellers, librarians and members of the media. The majority of the room, however, was authors themselves.

Although that panel had many things to say about how e-books are good for authors, and for publishing, the short answer to my original question boiled down to one word: yes. In panel after panel, I saw new media and high-tech devices existing side- by-side with old media. At Tuesday’s interesting and edgy panel 7x20x21, the front row was filled with people taking notes on BlackBerries, on paper, on iPhones and on iPads. 7x20x21 is based on the PechaKucha presentation model -- seven presenters, 20 Powerpoint slides, 21 seconds per slide -- and it was, so far, one of the most interesting panels I’ve attended. The diverse presenters included writer Jennifer Egan, who showed how she’s used Powerpoint as a narrative form in her upcoming novel, and journalist Edward Nawotka, who urged teaching literature from the contemporary moment back to the classics, instead of the other way around. What do these two have to do with each other? What did they have to do with the other five presenters? Well, that’s what makes it interesting. With any luck, I’ll have figured it out for a blog post, sooner or later.

In the booth selling life-sized sculptures of children reading -- somewhere between charming and disturbing, depending on your point of view -- all kinds of technological devices were on display. You can order your sculpture with a child at a laptop, with a pad and pencil, or even reading an old-fashioned book.

-- Carolyn Kellogg in New York

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