Books and Mascots at NACS/CAMEX
Publishers Row was sparsely populated at this year's National Association of College Stores and Campus Market Expo (NACS/CAMEX), which took place in Houston March 3-7.
Pearson Higher Education, Penguin Group and Merriam-Webster were there, as was Random House—in a very modest booth, with a single spinner rack of paperbacks and a smattering of new hardcovers. But everywhere you looked the emphasis was on college logo-laden swag: from sweatshirts and backpacks to beer cozies shaped like jerseys and fight-song-singing bottle openers.
Overall, organizers say some 7,000 people attended, including 2,000 booksellers and 700 vendors. A smattering of authors also appeared, as if to remind the attendees that college bookstores also sold, well, books.
Television news anchor Mike Wallace opened the conference with a speech that served up entertaining anecdotes from his long career, many of which also appear in Between You and Me: A Memoir, out now from Hyperion.
Business guru Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind (Riverhead) started on an upbeat note by reassuring booksellers that they weren't going to be replaced anytime soon. "Right-brain thinkers and creative types will rule the future," he said. Paul Rusesabagina, the Rwandan hotel manager made famous by the film Hotel Rwanda gave a rousing speech about how lone individuals can stand up against seemingly insurmountable odds. His autobiography, An Ordinary Man, has just been published by Viking.
Some 500 people attended the always popular Book & Author breakfast and were charmed by writers Dava Sobel (The Planets), Myla Goldberg (Wickett's Remedy) and Jeffrey Eugenides (Middlesex). Among the panelists, Ron McLarty, author of The Memory of Running, was sanguine about the writer's lot, despite the decades he spent in obscurity until Stephen King championed his cause. He told the assembled booksellers "I encourage my children to write. It's a great way to start the day. You'd be surprised how a paragraph a day adds up."
One of the best educational sessions at the event featured a formal college debate between teams from the University of Houston and Texas Southern University on the topic of whether computers will eliminate the need for hardcover textbooks in the next five years. Although the consensus was that computers will probably win that battle, the transition isn't likely to happen in the next few years.
Why not sooner? Since the average professor is in his mid-50s, everyone decided they were too set in their ways to completely abandon books.