For the last three years, Chris has been working on a book. On Tuesday, at the Book Expo of America (BEA), he finally held a finished copy of 1950s Radio in Color in his hands. He looked like a little kid, with a big grin on his face, while he admired the light pink end-papers and felt the weight of the book in his hands. He flipped through it and stared at the beautiful photographs, color corrected and printed in glossy color, that he had seen projected on a basement wall in the home of Tommy Edward's nephew Keith. It's kind of amazing to see something you dream about become a reality after so much hard work. I'm so proud of him. 

Chris showing off his first book, 1950s Radio in Color.

The book was on display at the Book Expo in New York this week. Chris's publisher, Kent State University Press, attends the event yearly and this year Chris's book was front and center at their booth and is featured on the cover of their catalog. It's very different from their regular academic fare, which is exciting for them and their distributors, but it's of local interest in Cleveland, so it fits with their demographic. Unfortunately the book is not quite ready, the finished books are still shipping from China, so Chris was not able to do any signing, but we wanted to go to the expo anyway, just to check it out. Once the book is officially out, you can expect a detailed look at it here and I'm hoping to get a few signed copies to giveaway.

For now though, I'm going to focus on some of what I saw at the BEA. I've never been to this event before and I really didn't know what to expect. It's a massive event, with every available book publisher, author and bookseller attending. There are freebies, frenzies for signings and glimpses at celebrities. We were lucky enough to walk past Julianne Moore, but we missed the John Lithgow lecture due to long lines in the food court at lunch. 

Giant books on display.

The real celebrities though, are the book sellers. If you have a book seller badge, you get the REAL free stuff, the advanced reading copies (ARC) and the free books to sample, all in the hopes that you will like a book and order a bunch for your store. For the masses like us, there are free bags and catalogs everywhere. Otherwise, MIT Press was giving away buttons and tattoos, there were a few posters and some other random paper products.

I was particularly interested in the children's section, a full six rows, and we spent a good amount of our time there, trying to see everything. I'm sad to say that besides a few stand out independent book sellers, it was a lot of branded TV spin offs and average looking books. I talked to one of independents about why there were so few publishers doing stellar design work, and she said it was expensive. The ones that are creating beautiful books and could afford to come to BEA, have some interesting books coming out. There were three stand outs for me.

 

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The Creative Company has fantastic design. The website, the oversized catalog and the books are all gorgeous. Creative Editions is their children's book imprint and all of the books draw you in initially with beautiful illustrations and hold your attention with well told stories. The Rumor, featured on the cover of the catalog, is a re-telling of the telephone game but with animals passing along a message about a wolf. As you can imagine, by the end, the story becomes quite different from how it started.

Also on display was the company's original 1932 Creative Pictured Printer. It's a fabulous box of stamps featuring pictures, words and letters that children can use to create and illustrate their own stories. They plan to reissue this soon as a toy and I simply cannot wait to get one! It was one of the founding products of the Creative Company and I really love how the history of this company is an integral part of their modern identity. I look forward to seeing more from this innovative publisher.

 

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Lemniscaat 8 attracted me with a gorgeous poster (see the artwork below) that they printed with art from their lead title, The Tree House. This is a wondrously wordless story about "a polar bear who rides a whale to a tree rising out of the water. At the top of the tree is a tree house. He's joined by a brown bear in a boat. The bears find that the tree house is the perfect place to read. When the water recedes, they are joined by flamingos, panda bears, and other animals that come by land and air. The tree house is a place of wonder, where a brown bear catches snowflakes in a butterfly net." The story was created and illustrated by Ronald and Marije Tolman, father and daughter.

Lemniscaat 8 are a Dutch company who have been printing high quality, award winning books in the US for 12 years. The word "lemniscate" is a geometry term, referring to the curves that make a figure eight. Previously an imprint of Boyds Mills Press in the US, the company has ventured out on it's own in the US market and I hope they find great success.

 

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Peachtree Publishers was another independent group that caught my eye. They had a well designed booth and a couple of cute children's titles, like The Boy Who Cried Ninja and Back to Bed Ed! but it was the young adult title This Girl is Different that made me sit down and read the flap. I must read this book!

"What happens when a girl, home schooled by her counterculture mother, decides to spend her senior year in public school? First friendship, first love—and first encounters with the complexities of authority and responsibility."

It sound like such an interesting book about a point of view rarely discussed, home schooled children. I think it will provide a fascinating perspective on our cultural norms, what it means to be unique and independent and how to simultaneously participate in and fight against mainstream society. At least, that's what I hope it does! Looking forward to reading this one.

This is JJ Johnson's debut book and I believe she also illustrated the cover. She has another book coming out in the Fall called Random and here are 50 Things about Her, which suggests that she might be one of the sweetest people ever.

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I saw a few other publishers that were doing interesting things. Timber Press is a publisher from Portland, Oregon focusing on gardening and nature. I might just have to buy books like Seeing Trees and Handmade Garden Projects for myself.

Timber Press

Chronicle is a large publishing firm also doing design well. All of their books are beautiful. The bags they were handing out were being snatched up faster than pancakes at a free breakfast, and their area was also more organized and seemed calmer than some of the other big publishers. The "See Things Differently" sign from the top of the post was also from the Chronicle area. 

Beautifully designed bags from Chronicle.

M Moleiro also had a stand-out booth. They create identical reproductions of illuminated manuscripts and atlases, like the Atlas Miller (c.1519) pictured below. They copy them so perfectly that rips and stains are printed to look real. These books are amazing, but for an amazing price. Some of them cost just under $1000. I heard a guy asking, "So why $998?" The book publisher answered, "To keep it under $1000." I thought that was funny. No mention of the costs of printing or how much work undoubtedly goes into them. I think it's cool that there is a company offering to reproduce these works of art, but it's just ridiculous that it needs to be that expensive. 

Really expensive but beautifully reproduced Atlas Miller (c. 1519-1522)

Otherwise, the best design was at the French and Italian areas. I wish I spoke French just so I could read the lovely books from Editions Milan, pictured below left. Some of the Italian books were in English and my favorite publisher was Corraini Edizioni, pictured below right. You can find the Corraini titles distributed in the US on Amazon and at Chronicle.

So, that's my little, I-only-went-one-day, not-an-industry-insider's take on the BEA. I'd love to hear from you in the comments if you were also there and what your thoughts were! Have you heard of these books or publishers? What are YOUR favorite books?

A final note, one of my favorite things was a lovely girl at Timber Press named Emma. She told me the name of her yet-to-be jewelry company and I haven't been able to get it out of my head. Emma - GO FOR IT! It's catchy, it rhymes and it totally rocks.