For an industry that has been so focused lately on the impact of disruptive upheavals in technology and retailing, last week's BookExpo America--the annual publishing fete at New York's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center--was notably mellow, even upbeat by the standards of recent years. Publishers Weekly's front page headline captured the mood: "Stability Brings Hope at BEA." And with 20,000 book people on hand, there was enough activity in the aisles, booths, and autograph areas to engage the interests of any attendee.
One highlight was the climax of publishing's first Hackathon--a 36-hour competition in which roughly two hundred individuals independently or in teams submitted projects to help connect readers with the books that interest them, whether through better library data systems, reading platforms, etc. Among the finalists, the winning project at BookExpo was Evoke, which revolved around the idea of an app organizing characters by "'types'/similarities" into "trees," helping "users find new characters and books they might love."
The Hackathon was only one of a multitude of well-attended events at the convention including author appearances, panels on a range of issues devoted, one way or another, to publishing's future and non-stop schmoozing. The biggest crowd I saw on the floor was for Jim Carrey who is self- publishing a children's book next fall and was signing brochures. But there were a host of other celebrity authors on hand from publishers large and small including Doris Kearns Goodwin, Elizabeth Gilbert, Wally Lamb, Chris Mathews and many more, supporting the notion that books are streaming forth to audiences reading them on a variety of print and digital platforms with an increase, albeit modest, in total sales.