‘Publishing Goes Pop,’ Part 1: Can Reading Find True Fandom At BookCon?

“Publishing Goes Pop” panelists in Berlin chat before going on stage. From left, Michael Bhaskar, Lance Fensterman, Nathan Hull, Andreas Gall, with Publishing Perspectives editor Edward Nawotka. Image: Adam Janisch
“Publishing Goes Pop” panelists in Berlin chat before going on stage. From left, Michael Bhaskar, Lance Fensterman, Nathan Hull, Andreas Gall, with Publishing Perspectives editor Edward Nawotka. Image: Adam Janisch

‘There Was No Interest At BEA In…Readers’

BookExpo America (BEA) makes its annual appearance next week (27-29 May). It’s one of the world’s big-three publishing trade shows of the year, preceded in April by London Book Fair and followed in October by the largest of all, Frankfurt Book Fair.

And while the show officially ends on Friday the 29th, it doesn’t actually stop. On Saturday and Sunday, 30 and 31 May, it morphs, in a way. The carpeted aisles and book-shelved booths and pavilions at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center are to be all but overrun by thousands of that most-hankered-for demographic: 18- to 35-year-olds.

Last year, this occurred only on the Saturday of BEA. This year, both the Saturday and Sunday will host BookCon — “where storytelling and pop culture collide.”

Having drawn 10,000 visitors on Saturday in 2014, there’s a pre-event sellout anticipated of 20,000 total tickets for the two-day BookCon this year.

[pullquote]In 2006, there was no interest from our customers at BEA in having anything to do with readers. Consumers. None. …The head of one of the major houses said, ‘Over my dead body will consumers ever set foot in BEA.’  — Lance Fensterman, ReedPOP[/pullquote]

And the fact that something called “BookCon” might be that popular to so many people is part of what prompted publishing analyst Rüdiger Wischenbart to create a key session at Klopotek AG’s Publishers’ Forum in Berlin in late April called “Publishing Goes Pop.”

I was glad to be asked to moderate the “pop” panel in Berlin because Wischenbart handed me four well-chosen speakers to explore the question of that “collision” that the BookCon blurbs refer to. I was joined by:
  • Lance Fensterman of ReedPOP, the creator and producer of BookCon;
  • Andreas Gall, technology chief with Red Bull Media House;
  • Publisher Michael Bhaskar of London’s Canelo; and
  • Nathan Hull, the former Penguin Random House executive now leading business development for Copenhagen-based Mofibo, an ebook subscription service — and in an earlier career, the European manager for INXS.

I’m breaking my writings on this panel into two parts so that we can take advantage of the “second coming” next week of BookCon, and of the affable Fensterman’s first-hand insights into its development and context. In the second part of this coverage, we’ll hear from our other panelists and widen the issue of the books world, “pop,” and fandom. If we’re talking about a collision, what can we in the books world learn from what the “pop” people know about the loyalty and energy of fans?

Chart from Lance Fensterman's presentation at Klopotek's Publishers' Forum in Berlin.
Chart from Lance Fensterman’s presentation at Klopotek’s Publishers’ Forum in Berlin.

And before you say we’ve never seen anything like this in books before, think again.As I said in my opening remarks in Germany, the world of book publishing easily can be forgiven for coveting the massive crowds that pop-culture fancom commands. Note that in the graphic from BookCon here, you’re seeing a 74-percent cut of that “con” audience reading three to six books per month. This is huge.

I reminded our audience in Berlin of the siege of Piccadilly in London last September when YouTube star and author Alfie Deyes arrived at the Waterstones bookstore for a signing — to find almost 8,000 admirers waiting for him. That event had to be curtailed. Unlike BookCon, which is designed to handle such traffic, Waterstones Piccadilly was overwhelmed. Here is my colleague at The Bookseller in London, Sarah Shaffi, on the incident in Huge crowds force Deyes book tour postponement:

A spokesperson for Waterstones said: “The interest in Saturday’s Alfie Deyes event was unprecedented. Alfie did manage to meet over 800 fans on the day which made it our biggest signing of the year so far.”

In short, there are times when we’re seeing something that looks like a populist-big response to what has been considered the niche-ier, specialized entertainment attractions of books and reading. What do we know about these instances? What do they tell us?

Read More

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether:  Publishing Goes Pop,’ Part 1: Can Reading Find True Fandom At BookCon?

Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com



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