Sunday, May 31, 2009

BEA Recap: An Overview

I’m just back from BEA and working back into the daily routine. Over the next couple days, I’ll be posting about various panel discussions and other specific items of interest. In a more general sense, the tone of the show was one of uncertainty and confusion. Nobody really knows what will happen in the future and everyone is worried about the sustainability of the industry. It's clear that traditional boundaries (e.g., between print and electronic media, between industry insiders and those commenting from the sidelines, between recognized genres) are breaking down. Enterprising publishers and booksellers (primarily the independents) are attempting to take advantage of the confusion to identify new opportunities while others seem to be nonresponsive, hoping the industry returns to the comfortable status quo of five years ago.

The confusion was perfectly represented in the speakers chosen for Thursday night’s keynote address. Chuck Klosterman (a bona fide author) first interviewed Clarence Clemons, the legendary saxophonist of the E Street Band, about his upcoming book of anecdotes about working with Bruce Springsteen, Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales. By far the best part of the interview was when Clemons played one of his well-known saxophone solos for the audience. The moment was pretty entertaining but, ultimately, had nothing to do with books or publishing. Next, Klosterman interviewed mega-star Steven Tyler (lead singer of Aerosmith) about his upcoming memoir only to discover during the course of the interview that the book “isn’t finished” and that Tyler is “not sure” when (if?) it will be released. While amusing, the Thursday night line-up implied that one must look outside the world of books to please a crowd and revealed the industry’s current lack of confidence.

More to come…


An Anonymous Child said...

It seems strange to pick ordinary celebrities for the keynote address and not actual, established authors. Or even rising stars. But people famous for other things who now may-or-may-not get a book deal seems to me kind of... bizarre. I'd say less a "lack of confidence" issue, more "lack of understanding".

Serena said...

It is odd that they chose these two keynote speakers. I missed the first day of the conference, but it seems like they should have selected better keynotes.