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Publishers, public meet at BookExpo America

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Published : 2014-06-02 20:35
Updated : 2014-06-02 20:35

NEW YORK (AP) ― Publishers and the public met last weekend at BookExpo America, the annual industry convention, and seemed to speak in different languages.

If you were part of the book business, “Amazon” was a dirty word and “Hachette” an applause line as editors, booksellers, writers and agents pondered, fretted and largely refused to discuss the well-publicized and sharply-worded standoff in negotiations between the online retailer and Hachette Book Group.

With terms for e-books sales reportedly at the heart of the conflict, Amazon.com has departed from its usual emphasis on customer service, slowing delivery on such older works as Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” and removing the preorder button for such upcoming releases as J.K. Rowling’s latest detective novel, “The Silkworm.” 
This image released by Starpix shows actress Tina Fey (left) and actor Jason Bateman (second from left), stars of the upcoming film “This Is Where I Leave You,” with the film’s director Shawn Levy and screenwriter Jonathan Tropper (right) during a panel discussion at Book Expo America in New York on Friday. (AP-Yonhap)

“Amazon ... wants to control book selling, book buying, and even book publishing, and that is a national tragedy,” Hachette author James Patterson warned as he spoke before hundreds of independent booksellers. “If this is to be the new American way, then maybe it has to be changed.”

But if you were among some 10,000 readers who paid $30 apiece and crowded the aisles, conference rooms and banquet hall of the Jacob K. Javits Center, Amazon likely remained a favorite Internet destination and Hachette a name so unfamiliar that it needed to be repeated.

“We just pay attention to authors we read the most, books coming out, things like that,” said John Castaldi, a building manager from Garwood, New Jersey.

BookExpo began last Wednesday as a traditional publishing trade show and shared billing Saturday with the first-ever BookCon, organized by the producers of New York Comic Con and dedicated to the union of books and popular culture. As publishers looked on both hopefully and nervously, guests ― many of them teenage girls wearing “The Fault In Our Stars” T-shirts ― filled shopping bags with advanced editions of Lauren Owen’s “The Quick,” Charles Martin’s “A Life Intercepted” and Ryan Graudin’s “Walled City,” among others.

With some attendees complaining of long waits and erratic organization, lines extended through basement-level hallways and food courts for such speakers as John Green, Veronica Roth and Amy Poehler. So many fans wanted the autograph of actor Cary Elwes, who has written “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride,” that police were on hand if needed for crowd control.

Suzanne Wendolski, a bank employee from Johnstown, New York, was more interested in the chance to meet romance author Sylvia Day than in any industry controversy.

“There’s a lot of people who are battling Amazon,” she said.

Hachette and Amazon found it hard to avoid each other. Amazon officials attended a Hachette-sponsored author luncheon and Amazon and Hachette meeting rooms were in close proximity on the convention floor.

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