Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dispatch from the ASA Book Exhibit

In academia, each area of study holds an annual conference that is identified by an acronmyn—AHA (the American Historical Association), MLA (the Modern Language Association), APSA (the American Political Science Association) and AAS (the Association for Asian Studies) to name a few. Professors come to these conferences to give papers, interview for jobs, and attend sessions on a variety of predetermined scholarly topics. Publishers attend conferences to display books in the conference hall book exhibit, in the hopes that professors will adopt the books as required reading in classes (and therefore encourage students to buy the books themselves).

This weekend, I'm attending ASA, the American Sociological Association Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. When I arrived, I unpacked the twenty boxes of books I shipped to the conference hall in order to set up my booth by category—African-American, Cultural Sociology, Asian/Pacific, Education, Race, Criminal Justice, Economics, Medical Ethics, Psychology, Religion, Women's Studies, Sexuality, and Urban Sociology. I hung posters, set up displays, and put out catalogs.

In the morning, the conference hall opens strictly at 9:00am. Professors wait outside while conference organizers only allow exhibitors to enter the conference hall, and when the hall opens, the professors dramatically rush in, visiting their favorite publishers first. Traffic slows during morning sessions, but picks up again in the afternoons when there are wine and cheese receptions and author signings.

Conferences are a great place to meet professors and it's fun to help them find appropriate books for their classes. Academics are usually interesting and quirky, and I always end up learning something from our discussions. I also meet quite a few characters, including this sociology professor below who is demonstrating two of the highlights of working the book exhibit at at academic conference: interesting facial hair and free wine.

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