I attended the breakouts throughout Book Expo America while my posse worked our booth. Independent publishers seemed as excited as ever but fear was clearly on the face of the major players. Nearly every breakout seemed to have an “us versus them” mentality between the independents and the big publishers. I didn’t recall things being so tense last year. What did I learn? Well first of all I never got to attend the Google Books session because I wasn’t allowed to attend the “publishers only” session and the author’s session conflicted with another event. I really enjoyed the session “Book Reviews2010: What Will They Look Like” featuring Otis Chandler of Goodreads with some “real” reviewers including Ben Greenman from The New Yorker and David Nudo of The New York Times. I was surprised to learn that Otis’ grandfather founded the L.A Times. I feel for the newspaper industry and hope it can develop a viable model for earnings however believing that book sales will not continue to be driven by pop culture and the internet is very niave approach. David Nudo made the statement that he felt most people prefer a professional reviewer over the advice of a friend. I’d really like to hear your opinions on if this is true because in my case it is definitely not.
Also interesting was “Print On Demand For Dummies” featuring David Taylor from Lightening Source and two others. From this short breakout I could immediately see the future of publishing. Lightening Source also featured their “Espresso” machine on the show floor which offers book stores in house instant printing. Of course publishers are not yet giving up the rights to make this possible, but it is inevitably the future. Imagine walking into your favorite book store, browsing sample books storewide or even browsing the internet for the title you want. When you’re ready to purchase you take the book to the front and its custom printed in the size and paper type you want with your name in the front cover. This will also save the millions of unsold books that are destroyed each year because they don’t sell. The book industry would truly turn “green” printing only to meet true customer demand.
Saturday afternoon provided a pretty funny panel discussion called “Stupid Things Booksellers and Publishers Do.” There was a really funny guy who is a bookstore owner in San Francisco that attempted to moderate. Attacks flew back and forth but mostly in a fun way. Basically all sides agreed on one subject only – that non-returnable sales at a discount would be the most advantageous for stores, sellers, publishers and readers … but probably won’t happen.