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BEA: One Attendee's Point of View

Bea Ah, Book Expo America, otherwise known as BEA...the industry trade show everyone seems to complain about attending.  There's no good reason for me to hit BEA, so I haven't been there for at least the past 10 years.  Thanks to this great summary by attendee Laura Miller, I feel like I didn't miss a thing.

A couple of items struck me in Laura's write-up.  First, the seemingly ever-shortening sales surge for most books, even the best-sellers.  The example she cited was Scott McClellan's tell-all about the Bush administration, but that's far from the only one likely to have an abbreviated burst.  When I finish reading and writing a review of a book I often feel like my comments are too late, even when I'm reading a galley and finishing it before the book is 30 days old.  Yes, Amazon reviews last forever, but it seems like all I'm doing is contributing to the long tail.  Is it me or does it feel like every book has a much shorter sales spike than a comparable one would have 5 years ago?  Maybe there's a correlation to our ever-shortening attention spans.

Which brings me to my second item...  Laura is right that all the recent surveys indicate adults are reading fewer books than ever before.  And yet, as she notes, it seems everyone is writing a book of their own.

I know it sounds crazy, and I'm a big fan of these services, but are all the self-publishing companies (e.g., Lulu, AuthorHouse, iUniverse, etc.) actually contributing to the decline in readership?!  Most people I know who are writing their first book are also avid readers.  But the time they're spending on that novel is undoubtedly taking away from their reading time.

I'll use myself and my blogging habits as a related example.  I find myself reading fewer blogs lately.  It's something I noticed a few months ago and haven't figured out why.  On the other hand, I still use my lunch time to keep both my Publishing 2020 and Kindleville blogs properly fed with new posts every week.  I seem to be getting burned out reading all my RSS feeds, so, when I want to relax and do some "real" reading...I generally pick up a book.  I'm spending more and more time on my stack of unread books, which is a good thing, but it comes at the expense of blog reading.  Maybe this will go in cycles and I'll dig back into my RSS feeds again before too long, but I find it interesting to look back on my own patterns.

What do your reading patterns look like?  Are you following and reading as many blogs as you did 6 months ago, for example?


Lori Cates Hand

Hi Joe,

It's funny you mention that, because I too have cut back on my blog reading. I think I hit an information saturation point. There's just so much information out there that it overwhelms me.

On the other hand, I've read quite a few books this year (maybe because I've been traveling a lot and have had a lot of plane time).

Robert Walker

Yes, this is certainly a modern dilemma. Since I am currently spending a lot of time researching options for my new novel, I am currently seeking out worthwhile blogs to read, and that certainly has taken some time away from sitting down with that novel over there I'd sort of rather be reading. But, I think it's a matter of finding those blogs that are truly worth your time. I just stumbled onto this one (thanks to Jane Friedman's There Are No Rules Blog-another one I feel is worth the time), and have added it to my RSS feed.

Either way, it's going to be interesting to see where all this goes...

Neil Edde

I hear ya, Joe. If you want to read some interesting thoughts on the perils of information overload, check out some of Neil Postman's books. Technopoly, The End of Education, and Amusing Ourselves to Death are a few good ones. He was the head of the Education Dept. at NYU and wrote back in the early 90s about the impending flood of information that the internet was about to unleash. His insights and opinions are still very relevant today.

On a side note, I had dinner with a friend the other night who told me that his 5-year old daughter was diagnosed with "cognitive overload disorder," a relatively new condition that apparently is affecting children whose brains, so the theory goes, haven't been able to develop the synapses needed to process all the media that pummels them on a daily basis. I was skeptical at first, but it kinda makes sense.

On another side note, I spent last Sunday morning reading the Portland Oregonian cover to cover. No TV, no internet, just me and the paper. And it was great. Totally relaxing.

Anthony S. Policastro

Hi Joe,
I reached information overload about two months ago and found I was reading blogs all the time. Now I just scan them and if something catches my interest I'll read it.

Being a writer with three blogs and writing my fourth novel, you would think I never read books, but I make an effort to read a novel and a non-fiction book even if it's only a half hour a day. Eventually, I'll finish those books and look for another. It's not easy at times, but I feel compelled that I should be reading a book.

Paul Boger


I find that it isn't "information overload" that slows me down, but "quality underload." Too many of the blogs that I see are redundant now to newsletters, email, and other things that hit my inbox. Likewise, I've stopped lookng at several that only seem to market the author's business, services, products, etc. Yours is still a very welcome exception to those peeves, however.

I have the same problem with books. The older I get, the pickier I become about what I choose to spend time with or on. I read fewer books, but seem to take more time with them.

Fwiw ...


Joe Wikert

Hi Paul. Yeah, "quality underload"...I think that sums up my experience from time to time as well. You should trademark that phrase! ;-)

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