BookCon has come and gone for the year 2017 and for the second time I was able to attend this time around. My rating for my second appearance at BookCon? A little bit disappointing.
Don’t get me wrong. Any type of convention or meet up that solely revolves around books and the importance of reading is like paradise to me. But amongst all these books and fellow book lovers, for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it this year. When I attended it 2 years ago, I had a much better experience. I know that attending BookCon or something similar is every bookworm’s dream and I don’t want to sound like I am being ungrateful. But that doesn’t mean I am not blind to see the many flaws that allowed me to feel this way. Let me explain:
I am all for guaranteeing the safety of others, especially when it involves a large gathering. But do it properly. When I first attended BookCon two years ago, we just walked in. We didn’t have to line up or have our bags checked. I can understand due to recent events, precautions had to be taken. However, the way it was done was a total headache and very disorganized. If people got their early enough, they were able to walk in, get their bags checked, and wait downstairs until the show floor to open. Others had to wait in a long line in order to get past the bag check. It was very unclear on where people had to go. They also stop the ones who were the exhibitors and had to be on the showroom floor. They didn’t even have a separate line for them to go through. It just added to the confusion.
The show floor opened at 10AM. They didn’t start letting us through until 10:15AM, claiming they had to wait for the people who were downstairs to clear out before they even let us through, which was not the case, since I had a friend who was in there, waiting on another big line in the basement, and didn’t realize the convention was officially opened until I called her and told her that I was on the show room floor. This back and forth and lack of communication frustrated me to no end. Letting us enter late caused a mad rush to the show room which caused “traffic jams” in very tight areas.
I am not trashing their security procedures, just critiquing it. There is room for improvement and hopefully they will get it right and do a better job next year.
I saw a huge decrease of the amount of free giveaways compared to two years ago. Don’t get me wrong there were some exhibitors doing giveaways but the book giveaways (especially with the big name publishers) was severely lacking. Years ago, before entering the convention, you would be bombarded with free tote bags, including the ones you get just for singing up for an organization’s newsletter. This year, signing up for the newsletter was still a requirement but it is like they did not have enough and they ran out quickly. Or, which was the case for many of the tables there, you had to buy something in order to get the tote bag or other “free”things”. Some booths were severely lacking. There shelves were practically bare and looked like they didn’t care how it may be perceived.
What I liked about BookCon was that it focused on all genres of books. The panels, the booths, the books…it all manged to cover the many aspects of reading. You had something for children, for teens and adults. I loved the fact that it wasn’t focused on one genre, it had something for everyone. However, I didn’t get that same feeling this year. Even by looking at the panels and autographing sessions beforehand, you can tell that for some reason this year’s BookCon was very YA focus. Even a lot of the books they were selling in the official bookstore were mostly YA books. To me, there was no variety, no diversity…all of it seem pretty much the same.
Worst Exhibitor of BookCon Award Goes To…
There were a couple of booths at BookCon that were a complete mess but Penguin Random House really takes the cake. I have nothing against them, however, either this was the workers first time attending BookCon or they had no idea what they were doing. BookCon required everyone to activate their badge, so when you go to a booth and they want to sign you up for their newsletter, all they have to do is scan the QR code and use the email linked to the badge. It looks like Penguin Random House did not get that message. They were signing people up using their iPad. Apparently there were different lines for different sign ups but you couldn’t tell by the swarm of people who were crowding around the booth. For one giveaway, they had a piece of paper and one pen and asking people to jot down their email address for a YA newsletter and in order to get a free tote bag. And the free books? That was a complete joke. They barely had enough copies. They quickly ran out and there shelves were looking pretty bare and pathetic. Of course, the only thing they were well in stock of were books you had to purchase in order for any in-booth signing they were going to have. A huge let down.
The panel discussions, what use to be fun and informative, were hugely lacking and uninteresting. The only interesting one I went to was one with Margaret Atwood. They didn’t really have panel discussions dealing with real issues and topics that reflect what is going on in the world. They had one panel discussion on social issues reflected in books and that is about it. We Need Diverse Books, an important organization that reflects the necessary need of diversity in reading and hosted a panel discussion two years back at BookCon, were regulated to a meet and greet room, a smaller room where they did not receive as much fanfare, unless a big name was going to join in the discussion. BookCon could have introduced issues that were important, especially in this day and age but they really missed the opportunity to have an open discussion about stuff that is important and matters.
I can go on and on but I don’t want to sound like a downer. I did enjoy some parts of BookCon, however, I feel like I was looking for more a professional discussion. So instead of going to BookCon next year, I’ll be going to BookExpo. Yes, it is more money, but I think it is more of what I am looking for. Hopefully, BookCon might change their objective and their trajectory but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Even though I didn’t have a great time, I did manage to take some great pictures! Here there are: