In an interesting partnership, BlogWorld and Book Expo America co-located their East Coast conventions last week, creating a confluence of traditional print and cutting-edge virtual communications. The two three-day conventions at the Jacob Javits Center in New York were noteworthy for their wildly divergent demographics, also for the recognition that there can be a delightful symbiosis at work between these very different worlds.
There wasn’t a lot of mixing that I observed, but with a foot in each world, I had the opportunity to experience both, and sense a trend toward a very compelling nexus between traditional publishing and the digital-virtual world of the Internet. Attendees at each convention had reciprocal passes: BEA delegates could attend BlogWorld East. Bloggers and others in the world of “new media” had full access to BEA. I had the good fortune to attend BlogWorld East as Blogcritics Co-Executive Editor, and BEA as an ECW Press Author invited to do a book signing. It provided an interesting perspective.
Traditional publishers with household names like Random House and Harper Collins, alongside smaller independents like ECW Press and Chicago Review Press displayed their latest releases at booths both large and intimate. But alongside the traditional press were other vendors seeking to make the most of digital technology, the current popularity of e-books and social media. Authors, agents, editors, and publishers schmoozed and signed books, made deals, browsed, and networked while trying to spot the occasional celebrity author (I spotted Michael Moore hanging out at the C-Span trailer just outside the exhibit hall, and met novelist Margaret Atwood at the Harlequin Press party). Business casual and comfortable shoes were the dress for success look of the convention.
But down the hall and down the escalator from BEA (which took up three floors) mingled a somewhat younger, and much more casually-attired crowd. Certainly no less powerful, these publishing professionals inhabit the world of blogs and social media. For here was set the much smaller but no less frantically-paced BlogWorld East, the first BlogWorld convention held on the East Coast.
Sessions on maximizing social media, the latest trends in monetizing blogs and websites, content creation and curation were among the lively and well attended sessions. The very first Social Media Business Summit explored the newest frontiers of connecting content with consumers.
The exhibit floor let attendees catch the latest trends among both well-established fixtures in the blogosphere like WordPress, and the upstarts like Groupon. Several companies, including Infolinks and Text-Link-Ads touted the latest in site monetization by way of embedded links. Far less messy and garish than banner ads, contextual link ads come in passive (i.e. popups) or active (you actually have to click the link) forms that lead you to more information about a new product or service.
As an author as well as a blogger, I found the co-locating of the two conferences compelling. The Internet is really the most dynamic and potentially lucrative frontier for authors to communicate with their readers. Personal blogs, virtual book tours, Twitter, and Facebook more than ever give authors an opportunity to come face to face with their audience. That means more book sales—something that is not unnoticed among publishers. E-book commerce continues to gain in importance and e-publishing is a force traditional publishers must face (and even embrace).
The potential of this nexus between publishing and the World Wide Web is exemplified by two new ventures to which I was introduced at Book Expo. Copia is an innovative e-reader available on your choice of platforms, including from desktop (in Windows and Mac), iPad and the various species of smart phone on the market.
What’s unusual about Copia is that it encourages and facilitates community building around a book—sort of like a virtual book club. The e-reader allows you to comment on any page, paragraph or idea by annotation. Those annotations, questions and comments can be made public (or kept private if you choose). Others reading the same book can read your comments, add to them, debate or share them with others. Authors can annotate their own books, pointing out ideas along the way and thus fostering conversation directly with the author. Cool, huh? The only hitch is that not every book is on Copia, and although the catalogue is comprehensive, not everything is available—and you can only annotate books purchased on Copia.
Another exciting marriage of much convenience between the print and digital worlds comes from the genius of novelist Margaret Atwood and a team of tech-savvy folk at IdoLVine. The company has developed a fantastic way for authors to connect with their readers. Readers from all over the world to can virtually attend live-streamed book signings, and have their books (or e-books) personally signed!
Through unique technology, IdoLVine hopes to change the way book tours are done, making them greener and much more accessible to a larger audience. Erica Jong, Neil Gaiman, Atwood and other big-name authors are already taking advantage of this leap forward in exploiting this latest technology to forge bring authors and readers closer together in the virtual world!
I’ll have more on BlogWorld later in the week. So, stay tuned.