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Crimespree does BEA

JavitsAccording to its website, Book Expo America (or BEA, as the cool kids call it) is “the largest publishing event in North America.” Wikipedia says it’s “the largest annual book trade fair in the United States.” Now that I’ve been, though, I can honestly say that while both of those descriptions are accurate, neither quite does it justice.

To some extent, BEA feels like the book industry’s version of fashion week. It, too, is a trade-only event designed to parade what’s hot and new before buyers and the media. BEAMysteryPanelThere are CEOs, cover models, and celebrities (I saw John Grisham, James Patterson, and at one point looked up to discover I was steps away from both Mindy Kaling and Gloria Steinem). There’s a lot of schmoozing, very little food, and a mountain of swag.

BEASteinemPut aside all the glitz, glamour, and free tote bags, though, and you’re left with a roomful of people—nay, a building full of people—who are excited about BOOKS. That excitement gives BEA the air of a grade-school book fair writ large, and to me, it’s what makes the event worth attending. If there’s one thing I took away from my two days inside the Javits Center (well, not counting a suitcase stuffed with books), it’s that publishing’s not merely still alive—it’s thriving.