Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Back from Bouchercon - October 2009

by G.M. Malliet

My apologies for the quality of the photo at left, which looks as if it were taken underwater. I have a few more from Bouchercon over here at Facebook, mostly featuring the lovely display of attending authors' book covers by the wonderful Sisters in Crime of the Indianapolis area.

I am generally too busy at Bouchercon to do more than race around and catch up with as many people as I can, and taking photos doesn't always happen. Running into people like Peter Lovesey, Sue Grafton, and Michael Connelly tends to make you forget you're carrying a camera in the first place--you're just too much in awe. But I did have the presence of mind to take the photo above, which is from the hugely popular agents and editors panel. From left to right are Joshua Bilmes, Michael Pietsch, Keith Kahla (M), Kelley Ragland, and David Hale Smith reporting on the state of the mystery genre.

Their news, I am happy to report, is on the positive side. I'll get to the negative in a minute. But editors Ragland and Pietsch (Minotaur and Little, Brown, respectively) report that, bad economy or no, they're still buying books to feed what seems to be the public's never-ending appetite for entertainment, mysteries in particular. Kahla (St. Martin's Press) and agent David Hale Smith agree--things are looking fine, and good books are still finding a home.

What no one is entirely sure of is the effect eBooks will have on the industry, but as one panelist mentioned, paperbacks were at one time viewed as the End of Publishing As We Know It, and we somehow survived that.

Joshua Bilmes, although agent to Charlaine Harris of the hugely successful Sookie Stackhouse vampire books, admits to being a bit of a pessimist nonetheless. He is more cautious than his colleagues, not only about how eBooks, when they really catch on, will affect profits, but the effect of illegal (or legal) filesharing on profits. If people can download a book for $10 and then share the same book with five or fifty friends, Bilmes wonders how that can fail to hurt the bottom line for authors and publishers. Is it different from or the same as friends in a book club, for example, sharing the same book to save money?

Your views on the pros and cons of the eBook revolution? (I used to think the fact that eBooks can't be signed would save us, until someone recently asked me to sign the cover of their Kindle reader.)


Lisa Bork said...

I suppose it's inevitable, but in my bookclub, only one person owns a Kindle and everyone else is still happily buying (and sharing) books.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

A year ago I only knew 1 or 2 people who exclusively read e-books. Now, with the advancement of the Kindle, I know MANY folks who only read their books on Kindle. In fact, I've received many e-mails from readers asking for my latest books to be put on Kindle (which is not my call, but my publisher's). E-books are here to stay. We and our publishers must adjust.

I don't spend much time (if any) thinking about how e-books will impact my bottomline, because, frankly, I have no control over that. My worry time is spread thin enough already.

I don't have a Kindle, nor do I read e-books (yet), but close to half of my "reading" these days is done via audio book, and not just in my car. Audio books allow me to multi-task. I think convenience will also drive the e-book popularity.

Jessica Lourey said...

Great post, Gin! Thanks for the update on Bouchercon. It's nice to hear what went on at panels I didn't attend, and GREAT to see you.

I'm very Scrooge about e-books. Don't like 'em, don't want 'em. That said, I agree with Sue Ann that they're here to stay (but will not replace "real" books for decades), so I hope someone smarter than me is working on making it a positive reality for authors, publishers, and readers.

G.M. Malliet said...

Until the quality of the eBook screen improves dramatically, we're ok for now, Jess.

It was great seeing you again, too!