Report from Book Expo America

From Meredith Howard, director of publicity at Columbia University Press:

Well, the doors have closed on Book Expo America 2008 in Los Angeles, and as always it was a great experience reaffirming everyone’s commitment to publishing, writing, and selling great books. Your fearless blogger braved the crowds to give you a showside report.

The general feeling was that it was a mellow show reflecting the California location. There didn’t seem to be as many people in attendance as when the show was held in New York last year, especially notable was the absence of a lot of independent booksellers and book centered media.

Various Columbia University Press employees spotted celebrities such as basketball player Charles Barkley at the hotel gym; on the floor of the BEA Arianna Huffington signing copies of her new book, Dr. Ruth Westhimer, Mario Lopez, Stephen Baldwin, Marilu Henner, Robert Thurman, Rick Pitino, and Yoda.

At the Columbia booth, we saw a steady traffic of old friends from fellow University Presses, bookstores we love, book reviewers who came by to request the hot new titles, international sales reps, and foreign rights agents. We were giving away copies of The Best American Magazine Writing 2007, Inside New York, Columbia Business School Publishing business card holders, and pre-publication pamphlets about All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn’t): Inside The New York Times Op-Ed Page; all of which flew out of the booth as soon as we put them out.

The most popular item at our booth, though, was the Wii. Lots of conventioneers took a break from walking the massive convention center floor to battle one of our staffers at Guitar Hero or Wii bowling. We were promoting a book, Gary Cross’s Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity about the generation of young men delaying the milestones of adulthood to continue a life of living at home and of course, playing video games.

Book Expo America

As for my attempts to manage my book hoarding habits? I walked away with only five books in hand, two of them first novels by what I’m told are promising young writers. Since I routinely see convention goers leaving with 3 or 4 tote bags stuffed with books, I think I got off pretty easy. As a bonus I’ll have a nice read for my plane flight home.

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