Is the book experience displacing the book review? Someone wondered that recently on Twitter, and it got me thinking about the differences between reading an author on the page and hearing his or her words in person.
In an industry not renowned for efficiency, author readings are a highly effective form of "targeted marketing." Any number of motives spur attendees to buy: They may collect signed editions, or enjoy rubbing elbows with boldface names, or simply feel obligated (friends of the author, this means you!) Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., for example, hosts a staggering 475 events per year - some of them so well attended they must be held off-site.
My local indie in Arlington, One More Page Books, opened in 2011 and has gotten a toehold in the community by staging 150 events per year. "Readings spark on-the-spot purchases, sure," says the store's "author whisperer," Terry Nebeker. "But they also keep readers coming back for more."
I recently dropped in there to hear novelist Luis Urréa read from his latest book, Queen of America. Urréa "gives good text," and his fiction draws deeply on the life of his grandmother, Teresita Urréa, a famous Mexican folk healer in the early 1900s. By the time Urréa finished describing the bakers who made fresh tortillas every morning in the village where he grew up, he had the audience eating from the palm of his hand - and crossing it with silver, as the store sold 26 books that night.
What about you - do you go to readings at libraries or bookstores, and why?