My BEA Diaries



10:15 a.m. I attend an Amazon.com panel on digital book sales. The entire hour, no less, consists of telling small press of their dire need to register for Amazon's Search Inside the Book feature, and how others can SITB themselves. "People enjoy looking a few pages in," said one of the corporation's lead cheerleaders, before telling them about Amazon's new Upgrade service. (It gives customers the chance to buy an additional, second digital version of their book on top of the dead-tree version; one-third were aware of it, but no one was signed up for the service.)
"Just as people enjoy browsing through books in the store, they do in an online store." A few small press owners look confused and nervous.

11:46 a.m. Christopher Hitchens--who will appear at Town Hall on June 5th--appears on a panel on the Ethics of Book Reviewing, sponsored by the National Book Critics Circle. When asked of his overall philosophy on book reviewing, he quotes the book of Job: "Oh, that mine enemy would write a book." His latest book, God is Not Great, will appear as the #1 best-selling nonfiction book in this Sunday's New York Times Best Selling list.

2:26 p.m: Sherman Alexie signs copies of Flight in the Hachette Book Group for Young Readers area. Alexie reads here at the Barnes and Noble Union Square on Monday, June 4th.

3:48 p.m.: A panel on Reaching Your Audience turns into yet another advertisement for Amazon.com. The company is using its extensive digital infrastructure to host video, sound, and image searches; a clip from Wallstrip, a video blog show in which "pop culture meets stock culture," asks the irreverent and leading question, "Is Amazon the new Google?" A few men from the Orwellian-sounding Kanbay Research Institute continue by stating the fundamental uselessness of competing with Amazon.com's traffic.
"I think Powell's sells their books online," says one. "But you don't want to compete with their numbers. You want to embrace the web."

The gleeful-corporate-consensus-as-invigorating-self-fulfillment attitude was all too pervasive earlier, at the Starbucks panel. If people are already spending their money here, why not buy their books here? What's wrong with that when we're all in the publishing industry? What's wrong with corporate conglomerates is the increasingly monolithic venues through which books are bought and sold.
"That's just kind of scary, that everyone is basically buying their books from a few places," said an editor at a small press, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Borders--those are all that count," said an editor at the Hachette Book Group.

 
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