Budgets be damned. the number of librarians at BookExpo America (some even paid their own way) attests to the insatiable demand for books in any format and the deep impact librarians, both as library book buyers and recommenders of titles for their patrons, have on the book world. As many panelists at BEA noted, referring to LJ’s Patron Profiles, their influence goes further, since library users, particularly Power Patrons and Power ePatrons, are also avid book buyers in all formats, contrary to what some publishers presume.
The confluence of library borrowing and book or ebook purchase received further confirmation in the latest Pew report, “Libraries, Patrons, and E-books,” released June 22. It found that “ebook borrowers are heavy readers who also buy books [in all formats]” and that they significantly outpace nonlibrary borrowers both in mean and median number of books read and equal or outpace them in book purchases, depending on the format.
So, publishers, formats be damned. A reader is a reader is a reader. Given the vibe among publishers at BEA, perhaps that’s beginning to sink in. After years of being in the doldrums, publishing seemed alive with possibility at the show, notwithstanding continued concerns over competition from Amazon and Google and the uncertain future as ebooks ascend.
As my colleague Mike Rogers (LJ Media Editor) blogged at In the Bookroom on June 5, Day 1 of BEA, “those minions who have blown taps for books may end up shoving their horns in an uncomfortable place if throngs jamming the Jacob Javits Center’s show floor…are any indication of the eternal allure of books, whether in print, audio, or digital forms.” BEA even dipped into the consumer waters on the show’s last day, opening the doors to the general public. Maybe those who came were all aspiring authors, or maybe they were readers, too, like the rest of us.
For readers, BEA still provides the best means of promoting books: author programs and signings. There is nothing like up-close and intimate encounters with authors to turn readers on to a title. At LJ’s Day of Dialog on June 4, Francine Mathews (Jack 1939) and Mark Henshaw (Red Cell) described working at the CIA (which provides plenty of fodder for their thrillers, even though Mathews’s book is set in 1939 and the spy is a young Jack Kennedy, working for Franklin D. Roosevelt). They made the CIA sound like any other office, though it’s perfect for working moms, they said, since the job is 9-5 and you can’t take the work home with you. (Nervous audience laughter.) But hearing authors (or editors) tell you about “their” book makes you want to read it yourself—or buy it for your branch.
At the Fourth Annual Librarian Shout & Share, librarians touted their BEA finds, revealing why they might want to take a particular title to bed—or why it’s the perfect book for one of their patrons. Among their multiple endorsements were Jonathan Evison’s The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving and longtime book editor Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club. (For some of the LJ Review editors’ BEA discoveries, see p. 34–37.)
After attending Day of Dialog and the Random House/LJ author breakfast, the LJ/AAP (Associaton of American Publishers) author dinner, and the EarlyWord/AAP author lunch, Elissa Miller, associate director for collections at the District of Columbia PL, reflected on the BEA experience. “Content: we don’t get to revel in it, to know why we get up every day and why we work with stories,” she said. BEA gave many of us the chance to connect with stories and the authors who write them and to “revel” in content.