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"A Lively BEA" Reported by Publishers Weekly

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Read Publishers Weekly's entire article and coverage of BEA (Book Expo America), which is the country's largest trade show for the publishing industry.

ABA CEO Oren Teicher said that for the sixth year in a row the number of independent bookstores has grown. ABA added 48 members, for a total of 1,712, up from a core membership of 1,401 in 2009. The total number of locations also grew to 2,227, from 1,651 in 2009.

In his presentation on the state of the e-book market, Jonathan Stolper, senior v-p of Nielsen’s U.S. book business, noted that according to Nielsen’s PubTrack Digital report, which tracks e-book sales from more than 30 top publishers (for more on PubTrack Digital, see p. 7), e-book units fell 6% in 2014 compared to 2013.

One of the most notable aspects of BEA 2015 was the large presence of China. The country had a 25,000-sq.-ft. pavilion that housed more than 500 publishers and authors. The pavilion occupied space from aisles 1,000 to 1,800 and was so large one could easily get lost exploring the display.

The most talked about books were two novels, one from a debut author, Garth Risk Hallberg’s City On Fire and the other from a seasoned veteran, Jonathan Franzen’s Purity.

Next year’s show will run from May 11 to 13 in Chicago. It will be the first BEA held outside of New York City since 2008, when it was held in Los Angeles. 

Here is a link to a video from the panel, "In Search of Diverse Book Buyers," that I sat in on during BEA. 


Edited by Troy

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Author Emanuel Carpenter shared most of these points on facebook and asked me to comment.  Since I'm not a fan of supporting social media with free content, I'm responding to E's comments here.  I've also shared my opinion on the PW website.  As web site and publication PW is extremely important--even to Black books.

Indie Bookstores:  There are many indie bookstores thriving across the country, so it comes to as no surprise to me that the ABA membership is growing. It is the Black owned indie stores that are struggling.  As far as the overall number of store increasing I would really need to see the list and understand what the ABA consider a "bookstore."  The last time I looked at their list of stores, I found a number of errors including the inclusion of the Hueman bookstore in Harlem which closed a few years ago.

eBook sales: I noticed this trend and reported a leveling off of ebook sales on AALBC.com a couple of years ago.  I think the novelty of eBooks has worn off. Now that quality eBooks have begun to be priced more rationally, the cost difference is not as significant.

I've owned several eBook readers none of which I use today, because I prefer reading physical books.  Besides, sometimes you just want to OWN a hard covered book, and proudly display it in your home.  You never really "own" anything stored in the cloud.

China: China dominated the convention.  Their massive pavilion was the first thing you saw when you entered the convention. It was kinda weird at first, almost like walking into an unfamiliar space before recognizing you are in the right place.

Most talked about books: The two books I talked the most about where Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau, September 8, 2015) and Grant Park by Leonard Pitts, Jr. (Agate Bolden, October 13, 2015).  I'm also looking for news titles from Just Us Books.

I attended an interesting panel called "Word-Of-Mouth Gone Digital! - Building New Online Communities of Readers."  There was a woman on the panel.  Who worked for suvudu.com (panel shown below in cell phone shot).

[original image lost]

The site is run by Penguin/Random but touts itself as providing a platform for science fiction and fantasy fans to discover books and authors --regardless of the publisher.  

This made no sense to me, so I asked, "How does the publisher justify the allocation of resources and expenses to promote the work of a competitor?" The response is best summarized by quote from the Suvudu's representative's response "...a rising tide lifts all boats."  Now that sounds great, and is what I truly believe, but I KNOW corporations don't operate that way.

Another another woman, from Tumblr, stepped in and explained that all of the data Penguin/Random collects is very valuable.  I was sitting in the second row, so she could see I appreciated a little honesty, and she went on to explain that were are at an industry event, what else are if it is not to provide information.

Again, like most of BEA (save the humongous Chinese pavilion), the panelists and the attendees (photo below) were all white.  It was also interesting that this particular room was full of women (my bald head deliberately left in the short for contrast). Of course there is a reason for the lack of men, but that is a completely different conversation.

[original image lost]

But imagine being a white woman attending a event that full of Black men.  Would that woman feel welcomed and comfortable?  Would she be friends with anyone there--would they even want to be her friend?  Would her children go to the same schools, belong to the same organizations, or worship at the same churches.  Would she look forward to hanging out at one of the numerous after parties, later that evening, with free food and drinks. Or would the Brothers simply look at her and wonder what the heck is she doing in here?

I did not spend a lot of time at BEA this year.  Partially because I have less time and money, but mainly because BEA, has become a sea of whiteness. There used to be a lot of programming and exhibitors that would be of particular interest to Black folks, but publishing, never known for hiring many Blacks, has become virtually all white in 2015.  

The following images are courtesy of BEA's press room, and are reflective of the attendees and participants.



This again is one of the reasons we host the Black Pack Party every year during BEA.  Sadly, it is the only opportunity to see more than a handful of Black faces in one place--even in a convention center filled with thousands of people.


Occasionally, someone would suggest that it would be racist to have a gathering and call it the "White Pack Party;" so why then is it not racist to have a gathering called the "Black Pack?"   Only someone from the dominant culture would think that question makes sense.  If you look at the attendees of any of the big parties held during BEA by publishers, "White Pack," would be an appropriate description.  

This has been the reality, in mainstream publishing for so long, adding the adjective "white" would be redundant and superfluous. A sea of whiteness that far exceeds the population distribution is the accepted, perhaps desired, norm for publishing.

I'll leave it up to you to decide if that is racist.



Edited by Troy

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If anyone would like a high resolution version of this year's group shot (or any of the previous Black Pack Party Group shots), let me know.  I'm thinking about charging a reasonable fee to raise funds to support the 10th anniversary party in Chicago coming in 2016.

Of course corporate sponsors are welcomed and we will be able to offer an attractive package in return.

Email me troy@aalbc.com if you are interested in the high resolution photos or in being a sponsor.



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