Category: Books


One of the trends I have noticed in attending BookExpo over the last several years is that it seems to have gotten smaller with regards to the size and floor space it covers at the Javits Center at the same time it has expanded in a way to welcome more and more people who are not publishing industry professionals into the space. The former phenomenon certainly has to do with a consolidation in the industry, with any number of smaller publishing houses having been acquired by larger corporate entities (one of my favorite publishers, Black Dog & Leventhal, being a case in point); undoubtedly, too, the progressive growth in online sales of not only books but also related intellectual properties has contributed to the apparent contraction of the size and scope of the annual event – it’s easy to forget if you’re an attendee who creates, reads or reviews content that BookExpo primarily functions for the sake of book sellers and others in the business of delivering that content to consumers. With regards to the latter aspect, it’s mostly felt in the transitioning of the three days of BookExpo into the two final days of BookCon within the same Javits footprint – wherein the floor space taken up by exhibitors shrinks even more, but the public attendee crowd swells, not only to browse areas where they can purchase books but also to sit in on public presentations by authors and other publishing notables.


While the growth in the marketing and selling of books has undeniably and irreversibly been changed by digital media – chiefly by the presence and influence of a company I need not name – the resiliency of the publishing industry is nonetheless demonstrated by manifold developments. As BookExpo America, North America’s largest gathering of book trade professionals, prepares to descend upon Manhattan once again, it has been re-branded The Reimagined BookExpo (though the url to access detailed information about it remains to reflect  the evolving nature of the business, and while there will indeed be elements and presentations familiar to the global audience of publishers, writers, agents, booksellers and readers who attend the festivities unfolding at the Javits Center from May 30thto June 1st, there will thus, as always, be new wrinkles reflecting the ever-changing climate.


The Finalists for the 66th National Book Awards have been determined, with the Longlist of 10 titles being winnowed down to a Shortlist of 5 in each of the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature respectively. It seems every year there is a category wherein any number of the Finalists could possibly get the prize, whereas perhaps in another there is often a book that seems foreordained to get the top honor – due to aspects ranging from a Finalist nominee being a notable author with prior nominations yet no Grand Prizes; a groundswell of popular or critical acclaim distinguishing one of the titles from the rest; or circumstances in the political or social sphere in America that serve to make a certain book timely or “important” in terms of the national dialogue.


It’s traditional for the National Book Awards Dinner and Ceremony to be hosted by an emcee who straddles the worlds of publishing and celebrity, and often these luminaries will have had a book of their own released during the previous year – which enables them a good opportunity for cross-promotion, as their books may be included along with the finalists’ titles arrayed on the dinner tables for attendees at the gala to take home with them after the proceedings. Recent previous hosts have included actors John Lithgow and Eric Bogosian, and while the 2014 master-of-ceremonies Daniel Handler isn’t as known for film or stage performances as the aforementioned, his literary alias as Lemony Snicket is the publishing world equivalent of a character role. Of course, he also publishes under his given name, and it was in that guise he carried out his duties on the evening of November 19th.


The Longlist for the 2014 National Book Awards, announced last month, has been pared down to the five titles in each category, which comprise the finalists for prizes this year. Along with the previous announcement of the lineup for the 5 Under 35 event, which leads off the annual 3-day celebration organized by The National Book Foundation to honor the best in American publishing, this brings into focus the authors who will be at the center of the festivities of National Book Week next month.


With the announcement this week of the Longlist for the 2014 National Book Awards, the previous year of outstanding achievements in American publishing, as adjudged by writers and peers in the realm of letters, has come into focus. The National Book Foundation, which presents the annual awards, has assembled panels overseeing the four categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature, and after reading all of the submissions – which must be written by American authors and published by American publishers, and typically range in number from approximately 150 titles in Poetry to over 500 in Nonfiction – the respective panels have settled on 10 titles from which in mid-October they will cull the shortlist of five finalists in each discipline. Thereafter, there will be a public reading of the finalists’ work on November 18th, and the following day the four winners will be chosen by the respective panels over lunch prior to the announcement of their selections at the evening gala awards ceremony on November 19th.


Notwithstanding the copious amount of words I am capable of employing to write about or verbally describe things, I have always been a visually-oriented person at heart, engaging in drawing perhaps even more compulsively than writing or talking; thus, when I visit Book Expo America I am often most drawn to books rich with illustrations of all kinds. Given the goodly number of publishing houses at BEA which specialize in such work, this is could be considered a feast of sorts for the wealth of titles on array, or a vexing circumstance due to the fact that there’s only a few days to take stock of the wide assortment on hand. You can only do your best, and this typically results in discovering some fascinating books (while yet wondering about those you may have missed).


The recent timing of the announcement that start-up ebook retailer Zola has acquired start-up book retailer Bookish in a cash deal has had the effect of bookending, as it were, the 2013 and 2014 editions of Digital Book World, which will be taking place on January 13-15 at the Sharaton New York Hotel & Towers. After all, it was just last February – within a month after the 4th Digital Book World event concluded – that Bookish was finally up and running, after nearly two years of planning and delays. The acquisition will merge about half of the Bookish employees, mostly on the tech side, into Zola’s operations, while for the present time Zola plans to continue running Bookish as a standalone website as long-term strategies for integrating the two entities are hashed out.


The holiday season is certainly a joyous time but it can be stressful when it comes to finding a gift for the special people in your life. Here are some last-minute gift ideas that will hopefully inspire.


When walking the floor at Javits for BookExpo America, I always have several considerations in mind. One is that since I am a writer and am developing a few long-form manuscripts, I make a point of checking which publishers are putting out titles in a similar vein as the projects I’m working on; lingering at their booths affords chances to engage in conversation any editors, agents or other industry personnel who might be there, and hence afford proposal opportunities. As I am also a reader, I always spend time ‘browsing the stacks’ of the show, seeing what diverse books and other sundry items are being promoted, with no objective other than satisfying my general curiosity. Occasionally, these two preoccupations merge.