Today was the educational day of BEA, where booksellers, publishers, and everyone else attend seminars on topics ranging from handselling books to getting the most out of your website. I sat through a lecture by Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, called ‘Long Tail Prescriptions for the Book’. He argues that blockbuster movies, music, and books are being replaced with more people buying smaller numbers of things. It sounds obvious, but he maintains that people have the ability now to specialize their interests via Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes. There are a million songs on iTunes, but though none may reach blockbuster proportion, a person can be guaranteed to find something that actually fits their interests. Technology now allows people to specialize in effect.
The last panel of the day I attended was called ‘The Best American Fiction since 1980: From the New York Times Book Review Survey’. I’ve blogged about this before (or at least mentioned it). In my opinion, the New York Times picking one book out of so many to represent the “best” book seemed too arbitrary. Plus the group lacked women. The panel was composed of Tom Mallon, Liesl Schillinger, Cynthia Ozick, Sam Tanenhaus, and Greg Cowles (though he left halfway through). Tanenhaus seemed defensive from the beginning in my opinion, as if he felt he had to defend the whole enterprise. I thought Cynthia Ozick was amazing, as was Tom Mallon. And I have a new respect for Liesl Schillinger. My friend Ed Champion queried Tanenhaus but his response left something to be desired. Ed will have more on that later. All in all it was a good day of panels.
Tonight I went to the French Embassy for a cocktail party celebrating the Reading the World program, where I met many other booksellers and bloggers. We ate cheese, drank wine, and talked about the book world. Now I’m back at the hotel, ready to sleep and prepare for a new day.