Sunday, September 10, 2017
The U.S. Open For Books Is Needed
This past Labor Day I attended the U.S. Open for tennis with my wife. We enjoyed a lovely day of watching some of the world’s elite tennis players perform at their highest levels. We’ve been coming for most of the 17 years that we’ve known each other. Prior to meeting her I rarely watched tennis and didn’t have much interest for the pro sport. Now I look forward to our annual outing. Wouldn’t it be great if such an event existed for books?
The U.S. Open lasts nearly two weeks of day and night matches on multiple courts, including singles and doubles for men and women and mixed doubles. Hundreds of players – some 20 years or more apart in age – compete for fame, fortune and ego. The event promotes not only individual stars but the sport itself. That’s what’s needed for books.
Books compete with each other for shelf space, awards, best-seller status, media attention, and movie deals. But collectively, they promote the publishing industry and unite to enhance literacy, support free speech, and further the creativity of writers and expand the engagement of a reader’s imagination. Let’s create the U.S. Open for Books.
It’s not Book Expo nor is it some kind of awards gala. No, the U.S. Open for Books is to be bigger than them. So what would the U.S. Open for Books look like?
It would be a 10-day event where tents, arenas, and booths are set up to display books, authors, industry experts, and publishing professionals. Some of it would be BEA-like but then the real fun begins.
There would be competitions. Authors would get 3-5 minutes to explain why their book is great and people can choose which one they want to read. There could be tests or competitions amongst editors, literary agents, and authors to see who really knows their craft. There could be read-a-thons and all kinds of workshops that showcase some aspect of book publishing so that lay people or those in the industry can learn and mingle with the big shots.
The cerebral can go beyond our noisy heads. We can showcase the people behind the words, the individuals behind the stories. Reading is such a personal, individualistic experience, but producing books is a collaborative effort that needs to be understood, appreciated and shared in.
Whereas the U.S. Open of tennis has ranked players competing for rewards and notoriety, the book industry needs its own Grand Slam tournament to get the book world its proper support.
Such an event would allow for book swag to be sold. I can see the T-Shirts, mugs, posters, statues, board games, hats, jackets and jewelry now. This could launch a whole industry of products.
Perhaps my idea is ridiculous. Books aren’t athletes and publishing’s not a sport. They are the opposite. Books help us collaborate and aren’t really competitive. Authors would hope you read all of the books and learn from each one, whereas athletes, by rule, fight it out to see who is the last one standing. There’s no such thing as co-champions in sports.
But maybe the book industry needs some kind of unifying event that uses some level of competition to rally us. Wouldn’t it be cool if Stephen King could take on J.K. Rowling or Barack Obama, the author, takes on Donald Trump, the writer?
For now, the battle is fought indirectly, as titles compete for awards, critical recognition, testimonials, news coverage, ad space, shelf space, or positioning on a website, catalog, or list. But one day we may just witness the U.S. Open for Books and not just a tennis match.
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