While construction workers and stagehands were scurrying around the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City—which will play host to the BEA for the next four years—the CEO of the whole thing called a press conference preview, to break down what this expo is really about. We all know that the publishing industry—like most print media—is in serious trouble, so this year’s expo is working harder than ever before to cordially invite new media technologies to the party. Though advocates of traditional physical mediums, like books and newspapers, are often resentful of gadgets like Kindle and the concept of an e-book, the BEA big wigs made sure to mention that it’s all about the future of publishing, as well as the present.
Probably the coolest thing I heard today came from Rick Joyce of Perseus Books Group, who has designed a project in direct response to the changing landscape of publishing and media. It’s called the 48-hour book challenge, through which Joyce hopes to prove that, though publishing is certainly changing, these changes can be good and should be embraced as opportunities for growth in and of the industry. Here’s how it works: Perseus launched a website in mid-April soliciting ideas for book sequels, asking interested parties to submit the first sentence of a sequel to any book ever written (think, Call Me, Ishmael: A Guide to Dating at Sea, the sequel to Moby-Dick, for one). This afternoon they closed their submissions, and in the next 48 hours there will be a series public editorial and design meetings at the expo, culminating in the creation of a book, to be published in various physical and digital formats by the end of the Expo. The book will fittingly be called, Book: The Sequel.