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Celebrating the Book at BEA 2011

05/24/2011

 

Greetings from New York City, where I’m attending BookExpo America, the annual convention and trade show of the American Booksellers Association.

I’m happy to report that rumors of the death of the book, traditional publishing, traditional bookselling, and just about anything book-related have all been wildly exaggerated. I see a great energy at this meeting, and a lot of optimism about the future of books and bookselling. As I told an interviewer with Publishers Weekly, I think the changes the industry’s going through right now – painful as they may be – offer great new opportunities for booksellers, especially the independent stores that offer so much extra value to their customers.

This is what the signing line looked like from my perspective, around 11:00 this morning:

I was delighted to see so many booksellers, librarians, and other evangelists of the printed word, old friends and new acquaintances. Quite a few of them had already gotten advance copies of BURIED SECRETS, or could have gotten them through other channels; they took the time to stand in line just to say hi, which I appreciate most of all. Writing books is a pretty solitary business, and BookExpo is a unique opportunity to interact with colleagues and the people who make my work possible.  

Electronic publishing (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, etc.) has made texts available in many new ways to many people who might not have had access to those texts before. I love the convenience of my e-reader, but I’ll never give up the physical book. In fact, the other day I asked folks on my Facebook fan page what they thought about a news report that women readers preferred the Nook e-reader for its color capabilities. Rather than weigh in on the merits of one e-reader over another, the overwhelming majority of people who commented said they’d rather have a printed book.  

What the rise of e-books says to me is that more people are reading, and that’s good for everyone. Readers read. People who discover the joys of reading in an electronic medium will want to share that with their friends and family, and the easiest way to do that is still a physical book. I look at the books on my shelves and remember where almost all of them came from: books I bought, books that were gifts, books I’ve written. Nothing will ever replace the pleasure of putting a book into someone’s hands and saying, “I think you’ll really like this.” And that, right there, is the secret power of all good booksellers. 

I have a clipping from sometime last year that quotes an MIT expert’s prediction that the physical book will be a thing of the past by 2015. I’m guessing that prediction will be just as accurate as the predictions that the world would end last Saturday. Just in case, I’ve marked my Google calendar.

(Thanks to my publicist Meghan Walker for the photos!)