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Far From Flatbush

Does Book Publishing Have an e-Soul?

Seems like only yesterday that, armed with my Daily Beaver press pass, I was wandering the aisles of Bookexpo America 2012, stewing in the idea that book publishing was an industry without a soul. As I wrote on this blog last year, I felt as if "I were an invisible man exploring an exotic city in a forbidden country… I felt no connection to anything… Sometimes I wondered what I was doing there."

Well, the BEA apparently found some merit in my existential scribblings, and they've given me another press pass, so I'll be going back. The assignment I've given myself: Find out if book publishing has been able to reacquire from Amazon at least 70 percent of the electronic rights to their soul, and if so, what condition is it in?

That’s probably a joke. I don’t think Amazon has literally bought the soul of the publishing industry. And if they have, they’re most likely developing software that will allow them to resell “used” e-souls and keep all the profits for themselves.

That, too, is a joke. My attitude towards Amazon has improved considerably in the past year, ever since they “un-banned” Beaver Street on the eve of the 2012 BEA.

The highlight of last year’s BEA was Patti Smith, author of NBA-winning Just Kids, interviewing Neil Young, whose book Waging Heavy Peace was about to be published. Smith proved herself to be a first-rate journalist, and Young proved himself to be an intriguing storyteller. Which is what I told Smith when I bumped into her in the street a few days later. “You asked just the right questions,” I said.

“That’s what I was supposed to do,” she replied.

That was the best thing to come out of BEA 2012—a legitimate excuse to chat with Patti Smith.

So, I’ll soon head back to the Javits Center, holding my well-earned cynicism in check, and I’ll see if I can find a good story to tell, or a worthy customer to invite to Bloomsday on Beaver Street.

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