17 December 2014

Any Flat Surface




by Robert Lopresti

Still thinking about Bouchercon.  (When you only blog every other week this kind of postmortum can take time.)

Attached you will find a photo of Catherine Dilts, standing in front of a mountain of carrier bags.  This picture was taken at Bouchercon, and is used by her gracious permission.

You see, upon arriving at one of these hootenannies you receive a specially made goody bag (just like the Oscars!) containing information and a whole bunch of free books.  Different bags get different books, all random. Inevitably some of the books will not match up perfectly with your reading preferences.

I heard one conference-goer asking: "Will there be a swap table for books?"

The volunteer replied: "Any flat surface."

Which brings up the odd phenomena of the book as physical object at these events.  Upstairs there is the Dealers' Room, filled with wonderful people who have traveled, in some cases, thousands of miles for the chance to sell you books. At least one had a long, lovely display of old and rare volumes. 

But all around the hotel there are publishers eagerly giving away books, in the hopes of getting you to read the rest of a series. 

Many years ago I visited a publisher's office and an editor asked "Have you read so-and-so?"  He took me into a little storeroom and started piling books into my arms, like I had won the grand prize on some quiz show.  I was flabbergasted.  Weren't they supposed to be trying to sell the things?

Back to the recent Bouchercon.  Someone did set up a few swap tables and, to my astonishment they did not fill up.  A dozen books would appear and then, a few minutes later most would be gone.  I expected that on Sunday, the last day of the fest, there would be a stack-up as people decided which books fit in their luggage for the plane.  But it hadn't happened by the time I left.  I am guessing that this conference (in Long Beach, an hour from L.A.) had a higher than usual percentage of attendees traveling by car.  So they had plenty of room for another dozen or so extra titles.

There was a mailing service there, as well, happy to box up your books and ship them home.  I took advantage of that. All the illustrations in the blog today are books that were giveaways - except one gift -- Thanks, Kate Thornton!

Last time I went to a Bouchercon the swap table was piled with tomes on the last day.  As I was shuffling through them I found an ARC (advance reader copy) of the new unpublished Matt Scudder novel by Lawrence Block.  As I grabbed it up I remember thinking: 1) who didn't want a copy of that? and 2) where the hell was I when they were giving them out?

It's weird how we feel about these remnants of dead trees.  Almost every day I bring one to put on the freebie pile in my library, hoping some college student will enjoy it.  Others I cherish and have carried along with me since high school.  And some books I am happy to read on my tablet and never own in a tangible form.

Back when I was even younger than I am now I remember buying a hardcover book at an event and taking it to the author to be signed.  His proud publisher was standing next to him.   "Oh, you'll enjoy that one!" said the publisher. 

"I know," I said.  "I already read it."

They stared at me. 


"I don't buy a hardcover unless I know I want to keep it."

Well, money was tight in those days.  And by God, I still have that book.

How about you?  Which ones do you keep and which do you give away?



5 comments:

Fran Rizer said...

Rob, the first time I visited the Berkley Prime Crime offices in NY to meet my editor after the first Callie was published, she took me into a room full of books and said, "Help yourself." Yes, I loved lunch at Berkley's expense,and I really liked the editor, but I could hardly wait to get back to the hotel to READ. You keep giving me more and more reasons to be excited about attending Bouchercon in NC next year.

Fran Rizer said...

Rob, the first time I visited the Berkley Prime Crime offices in NY to meet my editor after the first Callie was published, she took me into a room full of books and said, "Help yourself." Yes, I loved lunch at Berkley's expense,and I really liked the editor, but I could hardly wait to get back to the hotel to READ. You keep giving me more and more reasons to be excited about attending Bouchercon in NC next year.

Eve Fisher said...

I only buy hardcover when I've already read the book and like it; paperbacks I pick up fairly freely; but the keepers are ones that I have read, and re-read, or plan to re-read. And there's a lot of them...

Melodie Campbell said...

The swap tables at Bouchercon are the best thing ever!
I do feel for the booksellers, thought. With so many books given away, people don't have much room in their suitcases for purchased books. This year, we actually restricted the number of books to go in the book bags at Bloody Words in Toronto, to be fair to the booksellers.

Elizabeth said...

I only give books from my personal stash away if I find myself with duplicate copies, or if I really disliked it. Otherwise, people can wait & pry 'em from my cold, dead hands.