Book Expo America is supposed to be “for the trade” only. So says the program. That is a move in the wrong direction. Book events, especially the massive spectacle ones, should be inclusionary rather than exclusionary. How else are we going to regain the sense of reading as a fun, sexy thing to do? Why should reading frenzies be limited to worldwide Harry Potter manias that strike but once a year?
The general public is not invited to BEA, but look at some of these great authors you can meet in the Autograph Area on Friday, May 30.
Oscar Hijuelos, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Table 12
Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. — Table 17
Sherman Alexie, 2:00-3:00 pm. — Table 21
Paul Feig, 3:00-4:00 pm — Table 16
R. L. Stein, 3:00-4:00 pm — Table 24
Ann Patchett, 3:00-4:00 pm — Table 29
Then, at 3:00 in Room 403AB, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com will be pimping the Kindle. “This is a conversation any stakeholder in the book industry will not want to miss…” says the program catalog. Putting aside for the moment the horror that is the Kindle and why anyone would want to be known as a “Kindleista,” it's a shame these talks aren't open to audiences at large. Aren't readers stakeholders in the book industry, too? Aren't they the most important stakeholders?
Then there's one called “The Future of Reading” (1:00 pm, Room 403AB). They'll be rebutting Apple CEO Steve Jobs's assertion that “The fact is that people don't read anymore,” which he said earlier this year in the New York Times. Too bad that discussion's not actually open to a whole lot of, you know, readers.
If anybody manages to crash the Book Expo, let me know. If anybody doesn't manage to crash it, but attempts to, also let me know. I'll mail you my copy of the BEA program Bible as a consolation prize.