Another Book Expo America has come and gone.
This was my twelfth time attending so when comparing this year's show to previous ones, I'd have to say the crowds of publishers, booksellers, librarians, and authors seemed less anxious about all things digital and instead appeared ready to openly embrace the undeniable fact that digital book products are here to stay.
Everyone I ran into wanted to discuss eBooks, Apps, eReaders, tablets, and whatever else might be coming down the pike. They also seemed genuinely interested to learn more and excited in making the various new content formats and sales channels work in their favor.
In addition to these conversations, more evidence was found during Publishers Launch, an all day seminar that dealt with a variety of hot topics and pressing issues surrounding the book industry today. Several who attended these sessions were from international companies facing similar challenges of their own. The conference within a conference was presented by Mike Shatzkin (Video Interview) and Michael Cader and gave the 120 or so in attendance an opportunity to hear industry heavies like Evan Schnittman of Bloomsbury, Tom Turvey of Google Books, Steve Potash of Overdrive, Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks, Simon Lipskar of Writer's House, Charlie Redmayne of HarperCollins, Cameron Drew of Kobo, and many, many more. Overall it was a very informative series of panel sessions that provided much food for thought and spurred a lot of debate.
Speaking of Kobo: It was this Canadian based company that added to the list of BEA surprises by announcing a new eReader with a Pearl eInk touchscreen, the Kobo Touch. In doing so they attempted to steal some much anticipated thunder from Barnes & Noble who the following day introduced a new Nook eReader featuring (you guessed it) a Pearl eInk touchscreen display. In a previous post I had suggested this type of device would be coming from B&N, but must admit I didn't expect to see one from Kobo as well. So now there are three basic touchscreen eReaders available at affordable prices. The Kobo Touch, Sony's Touch Edition, and the new Nook, a spiffy, sleek device billed as the "simple touch reader."
I must say this Nook appears to be a vast improvement over the first model and so far all the reviews have been quite positive. So between this new low-priced option and the critically-acclaimed Nook Color, B&N's share of the eReader market should continue to grow, especially with women readers. At this point, it will be quite disappointing if Amazon's next Kindle doesn't follow suit and include a touchscreen, but most analysts expect such a device will be announced shortly before the holiday season, if not sooner.
But as surprising as the Kobo press conference and the quality of the new Nook was, hands down the biggest eyebrow raising moment occurred just before BEA even began with the astounding announcement that legendary publisher turned literary agent Larry Kirshbaum would head the publishing division of Amazon. I don't believe anyone saw that coming and the implications of what this development means will most likely not be fully evident for months to come. But soon an experienced team of publishing pros selected and overseen by Mr. Kirshbaum will begin releasing works by prominent authors, most exclusively available only through the Kindle store, which will certainly be an interesting development for consumers, authors, and competing publishers alike.
Barnes & Noble has published books for years, but how long will it be before they introduce a full-fledged publishing arm of their own led by another cracker-jack publishing legend?
Perhaps we'll find out at Book Expo America 2012!