May 28, 2014
Go, Read: The Comic-Con Style Makeover Of BEA
There's a longish piece up at Vulture
that folks keep e-mailing me from a writer named Boris Kachka about Book Expo America using some of the elements of comics conventions to goose the long-running event with what they hope is crowds of book consumers on the show's last day to supplement the industry attendance that drives the rest of the show. It's a fairly thorough article in terms of describing how this is done: celebrities and movie tie-ins, basically. The piece also notes the skepticism of some publishers, one of which isn't even formally participating while "lending" authors to the show. There's no compelling argument made that this will be beneficial to anyone other than those with movie tie-in properties and celebrity authors, which I don't know is a sign that there's no such case to be made or, scarier, that everyone already knows this and has moved on. There's also a significant unanswered question as to how this is different than a book festival someone might attend, events that are frequently held in places much more fun to visit than a convention center -- the geek culture featured at a comic-con was something that wasn't getting that kind of attention elsewhere. Major authors of prose are also still more likely than comics authors to appear in major venues as solo acts.
The article also notes a significant controversy over the diversity of participants in programming, which totally escaped my attention as a thing that was even going on.
An additional thing I find sort of interesting here is that this article discusses these moves as if they're brand new and not a direction in which the Expo has been moving -- or at least talking about moving -- for years now. In fact, there's an attempt to couch this as a kind of early effort that will lead to more refined execution down the road. It could be that the talk preceded the actions for that long of a time, I don't follow the Expo enough to know. I do know that as a book reader and as a journalist intensely interested in one aspect of publishing the show isn't even on my radar anymore and when I think about it the thing I liked about it are no longer a part of the show or are not expected to benefit from a comic-con approach: the limited and informed industry audience and the way the show would take place in different cities being two of those things. I'm sure it still works for a lot of folks, though.
posted 8:05 am PST
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