Chip MacGregor ~ Blogging from BEA

Chip MacGregor is a literary agent and the President of MacGregor Literary

Ten things I’ve noticed at this year’s Book Expo America at the Javits Center in New York…
E-Books: Amazon just announced that they’re selling 105 e-books for every 100 printed books. So yes, digital titles are outselling printed titles. But… that’s a bit of a tricky fact. Amazon will sell anything you choose to stick into a digital file (your company’s annual report, your seminar files, your class notes), so not every e-book they’re selling is really a “book.”

Readers: The color Nook is great, will read the most types of files, and allows you to surf the web. B&N is announcing a touchscreen Nook today. Apple has sold a couple million iPads, and it remains a cool devise, though most at the show feel it’s more a sales tool and less an e-reader. Kindle is still the leader, though it’s clear the folks at Amazon are doing everything possible to tick off publishers. The Sony Reader is trying to make a comeback with a touchscreen. Can’t see what feature Border’s Kobo Reader offers, or why the Pandigital or Alex e-reader cost so much. (This year’s BEA is being held in conjunction with BlogWorld and the New Media Expo, btw.)


Short and Cheap: If there’s one trend that’s clear among e-book documents, it’s that the short story and novella are coming back via digital platforms, and that a low price point (some as low as 99 cents) is motivating people to buy them.

Fiction Rules the Digital World: At the Digital Book Conference (a sort of pre-conference session) it was made clear that fiction dominates e-book sales. Some publishers claim fiction is outselling nonfiction on e-books by a ten-to-one margin.

And History Rules Fiction: Any quick look at a publisher’s list of novels will reveal that historical stories still hold mass appeal. From Amish (I’ve had more than one publisher ask me, “Do you have anything Amish?”) to The Great Immigration to British Class Stories, history rules.

Amazon is now a Publisher: The online retailer announced they’re starting their fifth publishing line – Thomas & Mercer, a line of thrillers. That goes along with Montlake, their romance line, and means they’ll compete directly with their suppliers. Eventually a major publisher is going to stop working with Amazon.

Stores Still Matter: A study here revealed only 6% of people who buy a book were satisfied by their online browsing experience… so 94% of readers want another way to view books. Which means the bookstore still matters. Now everybody is trying to figure out how to make money turning bookstores into showrooms.

Barnes and Noble may be for sale: Which makes no sense, since the retailer just fought off a buyout. But that’s the word at the show. And, of course, Borders is still trying to survive and remake itself.

This year’s International Focus in on Italy: Um… yeah. To quote Elizabeth Gilbert’s friend in Eat, Pray, Love, “If Italy ever invades Ethiopia again, and is successful this time, you can brag about knowing a language that is spoken in TWO countries.”

The Big Books include: Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, film critic Roger Ebert’s memoir, Life Itself, Justin Torres’ debut We The Animals, Alexsander Maksik’s You Deserve Nothing, Ernest Cline’s debut novel Ready Player One, and Ronald De Feo’s Calling Mr. King. There are always celebrities here (Ellen Degeneres and Diane Keaton are both doing book signings), and the lunatic fringe lives on. To wit: Lawyer Mark Lane, who created a cottage industry by claiming conspiracies in the JFK assassination (until all were proven untrue) has a new book, this time detailing the conspiracies of the RFK assassination. It’s never too late to be crazy.