New York Enthrilled at the 2010 BEA

BEA10 New York CityThe Enthrill team arrived home from attending Book Expo America in New York suffering from a strange mixture of clarity and confusion.

BEA merged with the International Digital Publishing Forum this year, with the hope that the digital and print worlds would be coming together nicely. That there would be a new and concise direction on how the two can coexist.

That didn’t happen.

The IDPF Digital Book 2010 started a day earlier than BEA, which was the first indicator that digital and print are still very different animals. The Digital Book 2010 sessions were jammed to point where people were sitting on the floor in front of the stage and standing in the doorways. That’s either an indication that they oversold the event or that the level of interest in the digital publishing world is growing. Personally, I think it’s a bit of both.

The sessions – and I hesitate to call them panels as many of them were thinly veiled ads for the presenter’s companies – were from lame to brilliant. The Bringing Your Authors to the Social Media Party… and Getting Them to Stay session was so packed you couldn’t move. Their big idea was that authors and publishers should have a Facebook site. Nothing about RSS feeds, or analytics, or Hootsuite or anything beyond the obvious. What a total waste of everyone’s time. On the other hand, Building Online Reader Communities with an Eye on ROI was excellent. Charlotte Abbott and her panel were intelligent and focused on what authors and publishers need to understand. Worth every minute.

Wayne Logan is Enthrill’s CEO and legal expert. He sat through numerous panels on topics from agency vs. wholesale to copyright issues and learned a lot about what’s coming down the pipe. I won’t bore you with the details, but if you have questions, feel free to respond by inserting a comment and we’ll try to answer them.

Kevin Franco, our VP of Marketing and a true whiz kid at everything digital, took in a ton of sessions on ePub formats, apps, devices and platforms. The speed at which technology is moving is phenomenal. As is the appetite of readers for using this technology to find new authors or purchase books by authors they already enjoy. These are exciting times for the publishing industry.

But not everyone is happy about the changes that are looming. Most of the booths at BEA were focused on print books. Digital is still a scary monster to many. The issues of piracy and copyright are huge and not yet ironed out. Release dates (hardcover first, followed by digital, or both at the same time) are a source of confusion, as are advances and royalty structures paid to the authors. Distribution models are changing, but no one seems certain on what this change will look like. One thing is for certain – the big box retail stores are concerned about the future of retailing books.

The day after #BEA10 closed the doors, I was sitting in Filene’s Basement while Celia shopped, reading Bowie A Biography, by Marc Spitz. At the end of Chapter 11, there is a line that reads, “By the time you read this, there will be no Virgin Megastore on Broadway off Union Square….” From where I was sitting when I read that line, I could see Union Square. Spitz was entirely correct. The store was gone. And that simple fact is a roadmap for what is happening to the publishing industry.

The big stores are leaving us. The days of print books are waning. Not to say they will disappear entirely. They won’t. Books will always exist in print, with glossy covers and black print on white pages. But digital is the new cool.

At Enthrill, we’re loosely basing our models on what happened in the music industry. It won’t be exactly the same, but the writing is on the wall for the print world. BEA will look considerably different in a few years. The Digital Book Expo won’t be pushed off to the side and it certainly won’t start one day earlier and wrap up when the event floor opens.

For the Enthrill team, BEA was affirmation of what we thought was happening. That the industry is morphing into a new, avant-garde creature, where the classics and hot new releases are embedded in sexy devices that weigh less than a hardcover. That distribution as we know it is gone and a new model is emerging. And that authors are gaining control over their careers like never before. Great books that are languishing in drawers are being dragged out, dusted off and released online. The best will rise to the top because readers will talk about them, blog about them and rave about them on Facebook.

These are the best of times for the publishing industry. Anyone who tells you differently is probably a publisher living on a foggy mountaintop.


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