This year was the first time I attended BEA (Book Expo America), and it might also be my last.
Please keep in mind that this post is not intended to shame or call out all book bloggers/vloggers or any specific attendees of BEA. After all, I'm also a book blogger. I don't expect it to have any particular impact on the unethical behavior of attendees, but I have to say my piece.
So if you're one of the turds who grabbed multiple ARCs or even snagged them out of the hands of kids in line just to post them on eBay for hundreds of dollars ... yeah, this is for you.
My library sent a van-load of librarians down to McCormick Place in Chicago this year to attend BEA. We all had different objectives. This year, as part of the teen summer reading program, teens will be able to choose a book to keep. I wanted to grab ARCs to supplement the titles we're buying from Book Outlet. I also just love giving teens ARCs and watching them try to wrap their brains around the idea that I am giving them a book to keep, for free, that is all theirs and theirs alone.
Look, you guys. I'm exhausted. I've been going non-stop since last Monday. I've traveled through six different states and I can't think straight. So here's the raw deal:
I never felt welcomed at BEA. I felt like the publishers and staffers were always watching me, monitoring how many books I took. It's not like at ALA, where they're practically flinging books at you and you end up mailing things home because it is physically impossible (unless you are Andre the Giant, which is temporally impossible) to carry them all. I rarely saw publishing staff smile at me at BEA. I felt like a criminal.
But you know what? I can't entirely blame them. When I see that people went to BEA and are selling ARCs for $150 on eBay? Yeah, they're criminals. They're taking books that bloggers need for review or that librarians need for purchasing information or that we give to our teens for free because--get this--a lot of kids cannot afford to purchase their own books. And you're asking $150 bucks for an uncorrected proof on evilBay. That, my friends, is the definition of scum.
Because of that behavior, I understand why publishers and their employees were wary. I can see why ARCs were doled out in tiny batches and at random times. But as a librarian, it was irritating as all get out and professionally offensive.
Don't get me started on "haul videos." Somehow, these free items have gained a sort of community currency--whoever has the most free crap wins. But wins what? Notoriety? A few extra followers? If that is the substance of your life, have fun with the knowledge that you are gaming a system that is supposed to allow bloggers, librarians, and teachers early access to books to make purchasing decisions. Artistically disheveled piles of unread ARCs may look pretty cool on Instagram, but they're not serving a purpose.
At BEA, I saw a lot of people who thought they were hot stuff. I cannot, in polite words, fully express my loathing for the terms "Booktuber" and "vlogger." I get that it's a thing. You can be mad at me for not liking Booktubing (stop making everything into a portmanteau!!!). I honestly don't care. But I was watching YouTubers and other bloggers interact and it was fake-hug here and shrill squealing there and prolonged conversations with authors about their channel or blog when everyone else just wanted an autograph, dangit.
I didn't start blogging with the expectation of Being Famous. I don't want to be famous. I don't want people to know who I am. For me, blogging is a great way for my introverted personality to express strongly held feelings. The most important and influential things that I do have nothing to do with my blog and everything to do with my job. When I send a teen off with new books, or I find them wandering the library already reading the book I gave them, that's what I want from my professional life. And those are the kids who are getting the ARCs I picked up (except for Gemina, which is mine for review and then I'm giving it to my mom).
This is a fascinating conversation to follow on social media, since everyone is on the defensive. I don't deny that I've seen librarians behaving badly--one lady grabbed like six cookies from the Disney/Hyperion booth when it clearly said "ONE COOKIE PER PERSON." There will always be bad apples to spoil the reputation of the entire bushel of bloggers, librarians, teachers, or what-have-you. I don't know if there's a way to fix this because fundamentally, the issue is greed and a desire for some sort of social notoriety, and those aren't tangible things that a conference can outlaw. They're supremely nasty parts of human nature.