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BEA Preaches to the Choir, Yet Again

May 27, 2009

book expo americaBook Expo America, the nation’s biggest book convention opens in New York today.  I wish I were going.  I love coasting the aisles snooping for the latest in book design and purloining galleys like a junky in a back alley.

But, educationally, BEA continues to make no strides toward enlightening publishers about their shrinking customer base.  Instead, it drinks from the same Kool-Aid pitcher everyone else in publishing is doing:  catching the digital cruise liner will have enough gee-whiz factor to keep the ship afloat.

A hundred classes will tell publishers and sellers how the customers they already have think and behave, but precious little information will be disseminated about the majority of Americans who are non-readers or how to convert them.

Here’s the list–double check me.  Even the bloggers are all about the books and literature, while no one is critiquing the sociological and educational shifts away from reading–er, I mean buying books.  NO evangelistic (let’s go convert people into becoming readers!!) forum is on the schedule.  Nothing about literacy.

I guess the industry is still happy with its occasional three-percent years.  Or it’s in somebody’s best interest not to talk about the elephant in the room.

That elephant, though, represents the real future of book publishing and sales–if people can’t or don’t want to read they will not buy your books, regardless of the format in which they are delivered.  Text-on-paper, text-on-pixel, or text-on-side-of-barn won’t make any difference to the growing number of people who couldn’t care less what BEA is doing this weekend.  Perhaps our thinking is that as long as the ship is still afloat, we should keep partying. What rusty hull?bea blogger schedule

One, count it, one seminar actually intends to address the popularity of reading:  Data Crunch: Books and Their Competition for Leisure Time Attention – How do They Stack Up? by the Bowker people.  That lecture will be well-worth attending, but I’m guessing it won’t be SRO.

I know I’m about as much fun to listen to as a tuba in a symphony, but these seminars should be on the docket:

  • Image Change:  Turning Reading from Frumpy to Sexy
  • Stronger in Numbers:  What Could Happen if Publishers Worked Together
  • Why Got Milk? Works and Get Caught Reading Doesn’t
  • Flexing Our Muscles:  How Publishing Could Impact American Education and Public Policy to Improve Literacy
  • Reader Creation and Development:  A Strategic Plan for Converting and Retaining the Non-Reader
  • How to Create High Interest/Low Level Books While Making a Profit and Changing the World
  • Know the Literacy Field:  Which Organizations, Celebrities, and Politicians Will Partner With You
  • Why Its Not Enough to Market to “Book People”
  • Basic Math:  What Happens When People Don’t Read (Hint: They Don’t Buy Books)
  • Book Publishing’s Macro-Economics:  New Metrics for Publishing Success

Oh, and one last one:

Why You Can’t Grow a Church While Schmoozing With the Choir

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mandy Mullinix permalink
    June 3, 2009 9:37 am

    Hi David-

    I read this a few days ago and it gave me a lot to think about. Today while looking at the PW morning report, I came across a blog where they were asking people (both famous and non-famous) “What Book Got You Hooked?” on reading. I thought it was a great question, and then I thought back to this post.

    To combat a dwindling reading audience, maybe we should really examine how we got them in the first place. Of course, studies need to be done on the non-readers as well to see what might appeal to them. Interestingly, one of the people who responded to the question (Ira Glass of NPR fame) didn’t really like reading until college. Most of his early reading for fun was comic books or Mad Magazine.

    Check it out… it was interesting.

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