Monday, June 1, 2009

Jason and Amie Went to Book Expo and All I Got was This Card for an E Galley

The last time I didn't go to Book Expo (back then called the American Booksellers Association) convention, it was 1986 and I had just moved to Milwaukee. I had gone to 1984 (Washington, DC) and '85 (San Francisco) as a publicist at Warner Books. It was fun. But I had no money, I had just moved, and there was no way anyone was going to send me.

I started going to the convention again in 1987, back in DC. At that point I was a bookseller on the floor of the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, the Iron Block location downtown, and I put out the money on my own, planning a trip with my fellow Schwartzian John.

Over the next few years, I started buying and continued to attend. Sometimes Schwartz paid, sometimes they paid a little (one year there was a $100 stipend), sometimes they didn't. But I went to every convention for the next 22 years.

This year there was once again change in my life. I'm a small business owner, and the need for me to attend the show would seem to be greater than ever. But instead I sent Jason (who is buying adult books) and Amie (the kids' buyer). I felt that somebody needed to stay behind and mind the (relatively new) store. I wanted to do the right thing as a boss and company owner.

But there's no question I have been a little crabby. I worry about the future of the convention. I know that we are dealing with an economic downturn here, but perhaps there are lasting changes that tie into far-reaching arguments about the future of the book and bookstore, which you've read about until you don't want to hear anymore. Did I just miss the last convention as we know it?

That's probably the subject for another post, but along with the future of books and bookselling, social networking seems to interfere with many of the functions of a convention. You already know the info presented there, and you're already networking like crazy with the participants. So who knows what the future brings?
One thing I always liked was visiting different cities for the show, but they have now decided that attendance is best if they keep the show in New York. That's where it is for the next few years, and in another change, it's now going to be run midweek instead of it's traditional weekend scheduling. I still can't get used to it not being on Memorial Day. And it used to run for four days.

Jason and Amie and I have been in frequent contact. Mostly it was them telling me another great thing they saw, and me complaining that I forgot to change the department that rings up the June Boswell's Best as a discount (I discount the books a day early so that a customer doesn't say to me, "But I just bought this yesterday!")

They'll give me a full recap when they return on Tuesday (they stayed behind for an extra day to attend another meeting).

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