(‘Second to last’ – yes, I’ve been itching to use that word for quite some time now.)
Tomorrow is my last day of the internship! The last two weeks have been agonizingly slow, but the past couple days have seemed like a slippery frog jumping out of my hands and I only manage to catch it for a couple seconds at a time.
Monday started the biggest yearly event in the publishing world…the London Book Fair! Just a short 15 minutes away from where I work, in Earls Court. Anthem Press had two tickets, and my boss graciously let me and another guy I work with, Rob, take yesterday afternoon off to go wander around at the LBF. We had no idea what to expect. I had envisioned a big room where publishing companies set up shop and sell their books. Wrong. Well, kind of right, but mostly wrong. It was in a big room and each publishing house had set stuff up, but I wouldn’t call what they set up ‘shop’ – more like each house created its own mini bookstore/office/lounge area. There were bookshelves filled with the most exciting covers that served as the walls between each house’s area (some of the biggest houses, like Random House and Hodder & Stoughton had actual walls), and there were little tables & chairs set up inside. It looked like a bunch of trendy bookstore-cafes got together in one room, except they didn’t sell coffee (although there were real cafes and watering holes also spread out throughout the convention center). Most people were dressed professionally in suits and the like. Basically, the London Book Fair is not so much a place to sell books, but a place where publishers can conduct interviews with desperate young bookies like myself, agents can meet authors and publishers, authors can pitch book ideas to publishers, publishers can learn about good printers, and all sorts of business meetings can be held in one convenient location. There are also talks and interviews with authors to attend. Rob and I listened in on one talk about how publishing companies need to begin the process of publishing a book with the idea that it is going to be published in different forms (i.e. a physical book, ebook, etc.), and not just create it only thinking about how it will turn out physically – not just deciding as an afterthought, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s make this an ebook, too’. I’m actually not sure that’s what the talk was about, but that’s what I got from it.
Of course, everyone in publishing is obsessed with the New Media – they’re either singing its praises or making doomsday predictions about the Death of the Book. Personally, I prefer reading actual hard-copy books. I like my books to be ‘loved’, as I call them – practically destroyed with all of the dog-earring, highlighting, scribbling, folding, and bending which I subject them to. On the other hand – as I sit and gaze at the ever-growing stack of books that must fit inside my suitcase and it hits me that the articles of clothing I brought have also magically doubled in number – a Kindle wouldn’t be too bad, you know. Yes, I do think that the inevitable future holds more ebooks and iPads and the like, but I don’t think the Book is going to die. I think it may be like writing by hand. While calligraphy is very rare as an art form and most people don’t write by hand as much as they use computers, it is still useful to know how to write by hand. As long as physical books are still useful to have (and I think they are), they’ll still be around, even if most people end up using their Kindles and Nooks or whatever for the sake of convenience. And with all that said, I think it’s smart for publishing companies to plan from the beginning of the publishing process to have an ebook version of each manuscript.
It was definitely a good experience to see the LBF and realize (again) that publishing is just as much a business industry as pretty much anything else. Books just happen to be our product. But that makes all the difference, really. I enjoy the business side of the publishing world, but I would never want to work at a bank or for Apple or for Ford or for Samsung. The business of publishing is enjoyable because I really do love the product, and I really do believe in the product.
Today is almost over… Tomorrow I expect to shed a couple tears, share a few hugs, and enjoy a round with the people who have been the principal part of my experience here in London.