We’ve been back from ALA Midwinter for almost two weeks, and it’s about time I posted some thoughts. I can’t figure out how to fit the entire conference experience into one blog post — so I’ll do several….starting with set-up.
This is one of my favorite (and least favorites) parts of a conference.
1) You get to see all you friends (and make plans for dinner later) as you walk through the crowded and messy aisles to find your booth.
2) You’re filled with adrenaline from the flight and in anticipation of a great show.
3) I find it a fun intellectual challenge to fit the contents of all those boxes into the limited space of a trade show booth.
1) You just spent time in an airport.
2) You definitely forgot something.
3) At least one box is missing.
4) At least one table or riser is missing or broken.
So how did things fare on set-up day at this ALA Midwinter in San Diego? All of the above.
We found our booth easily, but one of our table skirts was torn and when we tried placing the tables, it seemed that our booth was about 3 inches short of 20 feet. Luckily, the exhibits people leave a card in the booth with a phone number. It took a couple of hours, but they did come and change the skirt and kick one of the poles holding up our “back wall” over a few inches.
Also, our supply box never arrived — it’s still AWOL as of today. Fortunately, we’re in a great business. With tape from one colleague, a box cutter from another, and some plastic ties (for tying the banner to the poles) from another, we did get our lovely booth set-up in good time. And we went shopping (Staples and Target) for a few much needed items the next morning.
That evening, we had dinner with friends and former colleagues. I spent the evening with folks from Macmillan and Egmont — and the Caldecott committee was also eating our restaurant. FYI, the committee still looked rested at that point. We, however, all felt a little sweaty from all the box lifting. But we were definitely ready to spend the next four days talking about books with librarians — the best kind of days!
You may have seen the big news: a few weeks ago, just in time for the 2010 Christmas season, the first 19 books of the Boxcar Children Mysteries became available as ebooks, thanks to our partnership with the digital content company Open Road Media.
The digital transition has come with some memorable moments—won’t forget the little rush of excitement I felt when I reviewed the ebook files just before the launch and saw, for the first time, the classic L. Kate Deal silhouette art of Book 1 appearing on an iPad. And when I spot-checked the Kindle previews I had to keep myself from getting too absorbed with the storylines of Surprise Island and The Yellow House Mystery to do my job. They weren’t just “digital files”—they were books.
When I think of the book fair, I think of everything larger than life…the sculptures around the fairgrounds…
like the Hammering Man, a large kinetic sculpture created by Jonathan Borofsky that stands at the foot of the Messeturm. The black sculpture, which seems to be hammering at a constant pace, symbolizes the working man. It is made of steel and stands 21.5 meter (71 ft) tall. The Hammering Man was erected here in 1991 at the occasion of the completion of the Messeturm. The sculpture is part of a series; other Hammering Man sculptures can be found in cities such as Seattle, New York and Seoul.
Inside the fair jumbo-sized items were also evident if it was the Darth Vader made out of Legos at the DK booth,or the largest book of all time, At the Millennium House booth one could view the world’s largest book, the platinum edition of Earth. Opened it measures 6 by 9 feet. It showcases the craftsmanship of more than 100 international cartographers, geographers, and photographers. Only 31 copies will be produced, so one should place one’s order quickly. The retail? Only $100,000…
…Or the weighty marble and stone bookends for sale at the market on the grounds. The one I brought home weighed four pounds and was sculpted from beautiful blue Brazilian granite (azul bahia).
For whatever short time I have been in publishing, I have always been told that the annual Frankfurt Book Fair is the book fair where professionals from all over the world gather for meetings, sharing and learning the latest trends and activities of the industry. I started having a better idea how important this event was when I was started getting lots of miscellaneous permission requests. Everybody seemed to be working to beat the clock before they headed out to Frankfurt. So there I was, a first time attendee at the Frankfurt Book Fair, trying my very best to feel and absorb all that I could during this weeklong event.
Since I arrived a day early to attend the 2nd annual Tools of Change conference (covered in my next blog post), I was able to get a glimpse of the exhibition halls being set up, where the halls were still fairly empty. That was quite interesting, because then for the five days that followed, the convention center was just packed with people and actions. During the first three days of the fair when most of the business was conducted, it was quite the norm to see attendees (myself included) rushing from one place to the other, whether to catch a meeting or seminar. Comfortable shoes were a must.
When the fair was opened to public on Saturday and Sunday, the scene changed into a book/reading festival. The local publishers’ halls were filled with author signing and reading sessions. Families came to spend their weekend checking out the latest published works. Even cosplayers—people in costumes, like at comic book conventions—were sighted, too! When I was away from the Whitman booth I enjoyed spending time in Hall 8 general (where English-speaking countries were stationed), as well as checking out the amazing booth designs many local publishers had put together.
There is no question why the Frankfurt Book Fair is so highly regarded in the industry. Not only does it get the “book people” excited, but it’s such a high-energy event that people from all over town, or even around the world can take part in it and be immersed in the world of words.
When I was able to steal a few minutes on day three from all the scheduled meetings with local publishers, distributors, and agents, I strolled around the exhibition halls a little. The most interesting part of this book fair is that exhibitions are mainly separated into two main sections – the international exhibitors and the domestic Chinese exhibitors. The set up of the international hall (where we were located) was divided by each country with their own pavilions. Upon entering the Chinese hall, visitors were greeted by three floors of local publishing houses, grouped by their provinces, along with special pavilions of India (the Guest of Honor country this year) and Digital. Many provinces had beautiful pavilions with a touch of their local flavors. I will let the photos speak for themselves here.
We’ve been publishing books since 1919, which means we have one heck of an archive. Every Friday we highlight one of our more unusual, beautiful, or hilarious titles unearthed from the storage bins.
I think my favorite archive find so far has been rediscovering this series from the 1930s and 40s in our bins. This collection has dozens of titles, all of them pocket-sized hardcovers with gorgeous, unique jackets. It was all I could do to keep from photographing every last one.
These books were a Works Progress Administration (WPA) endeavor from the Great Depression. The Pennsylvania Writers’ Project, an offshoot of the Federal Writer’s Project, provided work for writers, editors, and consultants in the production of these books for Albert Whitman & Company. The Children’s Science Series consisted of nearly forty books about nature and technology, with titles like Aircraft, Warships, The Book of Stones, The Romance of Rubber, and Life in an Ant Hill.
They originally sold for fifty cents each (note stamp with price increase). A small price to pay for optimism, don’t you think?