BEA Day 1

First day of my first BEA, BookExpo America. Fortunately, because of this publishing blog, I was able to attend for free! I spent about five hours today at the Expo, and I still wasn’t able to cover everything. It can be a little overwhelming, as some attendees may agree, but totally worth it.

This year, BEA was held at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. BEA took up all four floors, with exhibits featuring hundreds of publishers, an entire section devoted to author signings, and the whole bottom floor open for meetings and panel discussions about the publishing industry.

I spent about an hour in the digital area, talking to people about companies that convert documents into ebooks, businesses that help publishers sell books directly from their websites, nonprofits who deal with copyright laws, and companies that create enhanced ebooks. There is a surprisingly large number of different softwares publishers can use these days. Trilogy, a Microsoft Certified Business Solutions Partner, is a company that sells software for mid- to large-sized publishers. Publishers can use their program to keep track of all sales, and track books from idea to publication.

Copyright Clearance Center is a non-profit that helps clients gain the rights to re-use content–which may be very useful to companies who are unable to afford their own attorneys. Innodata Isogen is a company based in Hackensack, NJ that provides, among other things, a service for publishers to convert their documents into ebooks and enhanced ebooks. They also had the most high-tech business card, which turns into a USB drive containing more information about the company.

Other exciting companies included Q&R, Cyberwolf, and QBend. These three companies help publishers sell books, both print and digital, directly from their websites. Q&R also develops apps that allows consumers to make notes and share on social networks about the books they are reading. Cyberwolf has an interesting solution to the piracy dilemma publishers now face in the digital world. Publishers have the choice of adding strict DRM, but they also have the option of social DRM. This means that consumers may buy the ebook, and a watermark will appear on each page that contains personal information about that consumer (email, phone number, etc.). That way, consumers are free to share their books with friends, but are less likely to pirate books for fear of spreading their personal information. QBend allows consumers to share their ebooks with friends, and they give publishers the option of selling separate chapters of a book, so they can try and serialize a book. All of these features are great ways to help publishers market themselves and increase sales. Who knew it could be so easy?

I also met some of the people who run BookRix, a social community for writers. Over two years, they have cultivated over 250,000 members, all who upload and give feedback to each other’s work. This really emphasizes to me the importance of social media and building communities. Later this year, BookRix will expand to publish ebooks as well as help their writers self-publish. It’s a great idea, especially since they already have such a large audience.

I was also able to see one of the Google Speaking Sessions, “The Future of eBooks Publishing Executive Panel.” The moderator was Tom Turvey, director, strategic partnerships of Google Books. And the panelists were Amanda Clos, president of Random House Digital, Evan Schnittman, EVP of Business Development of Bloomsbury, David Steinberger, CEO of Perseus, and Andrew Savikas, SVP of O’Reilly and CEO of Safari Books Online.

“Ebooks are a convenience read,” according to Evan Schnittman. This means that consumers buy books in their digital form because they know they want it, and it’s easier to have as an ebook than a print book.

“Digital is good for hunters and not gatherers,” David Steinberger said.

Most of the panelists agreed that the Netflix model is very instructive for book publishers. The way Netflix has made movies accessible and searchable is a good starting point for where book publishers should go in the future. On any given night in the U.S., Netflix accounts from 30% of the bandwidth.

Another topic that was discussed was whether or not best-seller lists will continue to drive book sales. Apparently, they only work well in the U.S.

Amanda Close said that she expects we’ll see more targeted retail experiences, and that a diverse product selection will be more beneficial.

“A market is a conversation,” David Steinberger said. Markets need to be evolved to meet consumers needs.

“Consumers need help” when it comes to finding books to buy, Evan Schnittman said.

How book publishers will continue to market themselves and make money was another topic of interest.

“We are a data rich industry,” Amanda Close said. “The more we know our customers, the better.”

Some people think book publishers should look to magazines for guidance on how to find out more demographic information about its consumers. Magazines market to their audience and have great direct relationships to their consumers.

But, Evan Schnittman had doubts. “I’m struggling with the concept of holding up the magazine industry as a beacon for success.” Makes sense, since the magazine industry is struggling too, especially with their ads. Evan Schnittman thinks that books publishers can “have a marketing relationship with consumers, but can’t effectively have a sales relationship.”

Of course, a big part of BEA is getting advance galleys and free books! Two books that stood out to me today were Eromenos by Melanie McDonald, who I had the pleasure of meeting today, and The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch.

Eromenos is a coming-of-age novel about Antinous of Bithynia, who had a seven-year affair with Hadrian, an emperor of Rome. This is Melanie’s debut novel.

The Eleventh Plague is the story of a young boy born after a war and a plague.

Jeff Hirsch signed an advanced copy for me–best author signature ever!

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