Familiar faces and long lines greet BookCon fans

BookCon tries its best to lure avid readers to explore the fandoms of literary universes and connect them to pop culture, but year after year, the convention made for booklovers falls short and feels sparse for regular attendees. BookCon is only magical and exciting for first-time visitors.

Over the years, BookCon seems to have shifted toward promoting commodity. In its first and second year, BookCon focused on exposing readers to new genres and literary adventures, showcasing and giving away advanced reader copies and unsold material to its attendees. But this year, BookCon disappointed in that regard.

Despite featuring star speakers like James Murray of Impractical Jokers and civil rights leader John Lewis at panels and autographing booths, this year’s convention still cycled through some of the same names visitors have seen for all four years of the convention’s existence. Cassandra Clare, Kate DiCamillo, Danielle Paige, Holly Black and Veronica Roth are some of the authors who are regularly featured at BookCon.

There were more unconventional authors in attendance, like Bill Clinton and James Patterson, who co-wrote a novel together. Novelist Jason Reynolds and pop culture writer Charlie Jane Anders made an appearance this year after being panelists last year.

Fiction novelists Angie Thomas — who wrote bestselling young adult novel The Hate U Give — and Kevin Kwan — most famous for his book Crazy Rich Asians that has been adapted into a movie of the same name — gathered huge crowds. These novelists were already highly regarded and anticipated.

In this way, BookCon seems like it is geared more toward new visitors rather than old ones. For the old ones, much of what they see is what they have already seen before and the novelty is lost.

While previously, there had been chances to interact with the books as participants could listen to publishers hype up a new book or receive a copy of their own to read, the latest BookCon failed to match up. Instead, there were abysmal lines wrapping around the publisher’s booths on the show floor, which is a potentially cool experience for newcomers but a chore for more regular attendees.

But despite its recurring guests and panelists, BookCon continues to grow. Publishers Weekly reported that last year’s BookCon drew approximately 20,000 fans, 10 percent more than it did the year before. But last year’s BookCon featured Marvel’s Jessica Jones star Krysten Ritter debuting her crime thriller and Margaret Atwood in a panel discussion with the showrunner of the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale. Big names can draw large crowds.

But by inviting more up-and-coming writers in addition to big-name authors and celebrities, BookCon might be more appealing to a different kind of booklover: one looking for new literature from unlikely sources.

Both new and old visitors should feel welcome at BookCon; the convention is supposed to cater to all readers  — not just to ones who would shell out money to see or hear big names.