Day Two at Book Expo America


Friday is here, and with it the Book Expo crowds. There are at least three times as many people
in the Convention Center today as yesterday. I saw one man in an elephant suit, a cadre of hip-looking black-haired
teenagers escorting a plush red character with X-ed out eyes, and several
sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal romance booths staffed by busty women in low-cut black
velvet and lace. Everyone is wearing
color-coded badges so we can tell the publishers from the industry
professionals from the exhibitors – though, frankly, what the difference is,
exactly, can only be explained using a Venn diagram. I spent my morning weaving my way through the
exhibition halls, introducing myself to writers and publishers (and, I’m sure,
a few industry professionals).

Everyone was very friendly, and very interested in WEbook, with one exception – the woman at the
Mystery Writers of America booth firmly
rebuffed my advances, telling me that, “We’re about getting traditionally
published. We’re a professional writers’ association.” Well! A glance at their website
tells me that “MWA is the premier organization for mystery and crime writers,
professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and
folks who just love to read crime fiction.” I guess that doesn’t include me.

My encounter with MWA reminded me of something Jeff Howe said yesterday
in his talk on crowd-sourcing: The internet enables and encourages “amateur
culture.” It’s no longer necessary to be
a professional designer in order to
get your t-shirt design recognized and created by Threadless. You don’t have to be a professional humor writer to get a cartoon caption in The New Yorker. The vast majority of
people populating LibraryThing
are definitely not professional librarians,
which is why the site’s bibliographic information is so rich, meaningful, and
downright fun.
defines amateur as “a
person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather
than for financial benefit or professional reasons.” The word stems from the Latin amator – lover. I’d like to think pleasure and financial
benefit aren’t mutually exclusive, but in any case I’m all for loosening the
boundaries that determine who can create books (or t-shirts, or cartoons, or
songs). And I’d much rather read a book
written by a lover than by a professional.

In other news, I never found Clay
, and downtown L.A. is an empty skin of a town, with no guts, no
heart, and no place to buy lunch. But
the weather’s nice.

-- Melissa


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