Book Publishing Operations: NISOD 2007, Update #1

20 May

Greetings from sunny Austin, Texas, once again home to this year’s NISOD convention. For anyone wondering about what it’s like to work a booth in an exhibit hall at a conference/convention while also attending sessions to scout around for book projects, I’ll do my best over the next few days to show how all this works. (I brought my digital camera along to take pictures but didn’t bring the cable to download said pictures to my laptop so I’ll post those once I get back to Waco, Texas.)

This is the third year I’ve attended this convention and, given that fact that I went to school in Austin at The University of Texas, coming down here for a few days is always a treat. I mean, for whatever the reasons, Austin has a freewheeling sensibility all of its own. For example, as I was driving just west of downtown this afternoon to get to my hotel, I pulled up to a four-way stop to see a very casual and carefree man wearing nothing but a bright white thong ambling down the street. From what I could see—and it was a lot!—he was in good shape and—obviously this was his daily attire—had a really good tan. And, to me, also obviously, only in Austin.

Texas State Technical College always has a booth at NISOD due to the fact that the school provides a whole slew of computers for attendees to check their email with and so on. Normally booths at a conference like this are a minimum of $1,250—like the one we had at the TCCTA convention in February—so being able to promote TSTC Publishing as part of a larger overall TSTC booth is a financial boon to us.

At most conferences, exhibitor setup is the day before the actual start of the conference. Given that, I met up with folks from around TSTC—System Operations, West Texas, Harlingen— today at 1 p.m. to set up the TSTC booth in the exhibit hall at the Austin Convention Center. Two years ago at NISOD I learned a valuable lesson: if you’re going to haul in boxes of materials you need a dolly all of your own to do this with. Austin in May—like Austin at almost any other time of the year—is unendingly sweltering if you’re done anything other than meandering along in a lackadaisical fashion and so lugging armfuls of boxes for any amount of distance is just miserable.

For the TSTC booth this year, we had two six-foot tables in a double-sized area with a big display piece at the back. This is the third time I’ve helped with the back display, an amazing contraption of expandable metal frames covered with photo panels backed with magnets. It looks really good when put together but getting all the pieces put together just right—and getting them to stay together just right—is always a . . . challenge. But, once again, it finally came together. On one of the two tables in the booth I set up 15 display stands with different books—general use textbooks, custom textbooks, our cookbook, technology forecasts—along with plenty of regular and diet Dr. Pepper—thanks to the Dr. Pepper distributor in Waco—in our official TSTC Publishing koozies.

After that, I made my rounds of Austin stuff I wanted to do before the NISOD conference started in full force on Monday. (Once conferences get going I tend to be too worn out at the end of the day to do much other than hole up in my hotel room and watch bad cable TV. As a matter of principle—for better or worse—I refuse to pay for cable at home—we have a free-wave rabbit-ear antenna—because I would feel obligated to watch TV to get my money’s worth.) The first thing I did was head over to the Texas Chili Parlor to have a bowl of XXX chili. (The Texas Chili Parlor was almost made famous by being the setting for the first part of Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” segment in Grindhouse which came out earlier this year. I say “almost” famous because only about 7 other people besides me saw this movie.) After that I headed over to Waterloo Records—one of the best independent record stores around—to buy some CDs: the gospel stylings of Mavis Staples on her new album We’ll Never Turn Back, the instrumental piano work of Floyd Cramer on The Essential Floyd Cramer, the Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head, as well as a sixties rockabilly instrumental collection and remixed industrial dance music. Finally, I finished off the afternoon with a trip to the Half Price Books on north Lamar where I made another visit to the “Books About Books” section where I picked up The Future of the Book, Bowker Lectures on Book Publishing, and Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller, 1900-1999.

Now I’m back at the hotel room, severely disappointed that A&E isn’t one of the channels I get in the room. Dog the Bounty Hunter is the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures when I’m traveling and get to watch cable so the fact that I do get three different Showtime channels is pretty cold comfort at this point.

Mark

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