1 Jun

Like all good reads, chapters close and books come to an end. 2016, BEA is heading out of New York for its sequel in Chicago.

While I have made jaunts and journies in the past to the mecca of arts, New York City, for the book Expo of all book Expos, Chicago is a flight away. Time to share. Chicago is a fresh start for the iconic book fair, Chicago will never be New York. Down the avenue and across town is where the big names in publishing are and will be for years to come, god willing. But the industry has changed. It isnt age that is taking its toll on publishing, it is technology that is beating a death, of sorts, to the literary world.

Things have changed in the world of publishing, at a cost to the literary word, sadly. The Trojan horse we all embraced with open arms has become the ebola, of sorts, of authors and publishers. And agents.

The BEA is the grand ol’ dame of readers, setting a benchmark for book fairs around the county, doing her damndest to not let the ship go down. For all those who thing that ebooks hold a candle to pulp fiction and fact, let it be known, them that say those darndest things have never seen a BEA line of fans queue up to be led for a book signing to the author or seen the knackered fans of all races, religions and color,  stretch out on a fan line  totally worn for gathering book after book sometimes because it has meaning and other times because it is swag for free. Any economist or professor shilling for technology has not witnessed the patience of saints as Snookie aka Nicole Polizzi kept fans waiting for her book signing. There is no fan line or autograph queue for ebook authors. Loyalty like that cant be made by IT. There are somethings that algorithm identity profiling cannot do or predict, that ear to ear grin of a fan gushing ‘you changed my life’, ‘I am your biggest fan.’

If only compliments were dollars then modern day authors would be rich because it aint going to happen the old fashioned way, the way things are going with IT.

You see people dont change. And they wont. There will always be wordsmiths, and dreamers and those that only see dollar signs where people should be.

Decades back, Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say The Darndest Things’ preface shared a letter from a boy to his dad expressing the boys sadness of the father-son inability to communicate, that his dad wasn’t listening. The letter was found in an Egyptian tomb. Linkletters book was published in the ’50s. And here we are today. The Arts content creators are talking but no one is listening.

The Associations- Romance Writers, Mystery Writers, Horror Writers and beloved librarian associations had there booths on the show floor, but far off in the corner where, once, book exhibitors used to be. Bathroom talk by staff confirmed the show was dead, a harsh word, but expressing the traffic was down at the show. The author talks was moved from the basement up to the main floor. Even rest tents, hospitality spots, for the ‘bigger’ names in publishing, were up stairs too.

Bag swag was down dramatically. The cherished McGraw-Hill bag was everywhere on shoulders but not at the booth itself. Bags are a big swag item that BEA attendees target to snag as soon as one’s foot makes it in the Javits’ Center door.
Ask a question in a right way, answers affirm concern for their craft’s 2015 nemesis of IP theft. Sure they hire lawyers, sure their industry is represented in DC by lobbyists but lawyers are expensive and laws keep on changing with authors knowing les than they should about who to trust in their world, about IP.

Outstanding portions of the BEA were under attended. The Chinese contingency presented a historically impressive unveiling of volumes on the Tokyo Trials, China’s version of the Neuremberg trials. The Judges son crowdsourced accessing his father’s notes, long before people found a distancing term for the act of asking others for help or money. Not that one walked away from the dedication knowing more about the Tokyo trials themselves but one walked away knowing more about the Chinese culture if one even walked in that direction with feng shui correct balance, harmony, softness and books that were, obviously, all in Chinese. There is humor in translation or lack of it. Books on display included tourists guides to Chinese done in comic book form, simplifying with smiles the distance between cutures. Chinese nationals demonstrated the Tea Pouring ceremony, musical interludes on traditional instruments.

The crowds were down with Snookie a reformed wild child better known for beer drinking and banging’ on the show Jersey Shore, right across the walkway from the UAE display. As someone who had the honor of knowing Sheikh Mahktoum and Prince Rashid, the pairing or neighboring of the two was awkward and telling.

As the refrain was repeated in interview after interview, can we go back to the old way and are there people who want to return to the ludite way of living.

The answer is yes. Dada in his wheelchair and glory shared his wisdoms that make him the best selling author of India. And….. had enlisted her patent attorney husband to put the golden seal of approvals on the handout card promoting her book on lessons learned from legendary survivors of cancer. She is a survivor herself with a back story that blow one away. It should be told. People, in select forums are listening, swag laden and all, I stopped to learn of her quest to find a film  her father a Holocaust survivor shot, thought to be lost. She found it, then brought the film back to the film festival in Europe and then to the Holocaust museum in DC. It is her inheritance of surviving that had her at this momentous book show today, a jewel in the river of tears streaming for denial that the worst of IP theft is to come, a whispered conversation in a world that struggles to survive against odds.

Gather near.

When the lights go out, in Georgia or anywhere else, it will be the ludites, the readers of this ancient craft of wordsmithing that will survive. The writers, the readers, are the guardians of civility. The Theresa Guidice’s of the world, come and go, in and out of jail and fan signing lines at the BEA. The pen swag and pencil swag affirm that books will go on. As will the BEA. It will be missed in New York.

Chicago, know the jewel you are inheriting. As for the BEA? Change the dialogue of IP protection away from talking points in DC that have brought this glorious industry to the edge of the cliff the dodo birds are walking off. Empower the reader. Empower the writer. Group therapy for the industry only goes so far.

Kudos, BEA. Challenges and all you did it another year, kudo to culture….

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