Peter of Detectives Beyond Borders blog has just been at a book convention where he met someone who opined that "fans" "pass the evenings in their rooms among their newly acquired books, missing the chance to fraternize at the hotel bar with the people who wrote those books." Having made this assertion, this person was surprised by it.
Peter riffs a different question from this exchange, but before getting to that, I, being a disagreeable type, beg to differ with his acquaintance's premise that readers (I dislike the term fans) who attend conferences do not "mingle" with the speakers. I've attended many more scientific conferences than book festivals (n> 200 compared with 3) and I have not only not observed this trend, but have seen the opposite. Science and book conferences alike have their superstar presenters who choose not to mix with the hoi polloi, true, but there are far more presenters (including some superstars!) who are only too happy to spend time with attendees who do or don't present, discussing matters of mutual interest. It helps, of course, to be interested in the subject of the meeting and to have basic interpersonal skills.
Peter's question is: "What books have you read because you met the author or liked what he or she had to say at a convention, whether during a panel, afterward, at the bar, in the hotel lobby or otherwise?" My answer to that is, probably a few but I have learned my lesson and am less likely to do so now. I was, until a year or so ago, a bit of an easy touch for someone keen to push a book on me. Until 2005 this was basically fine, as I controlled my Internet (mainly Amazon) along with my other sources of books (bookshops, book clubs). Once I started blogging about books, though, I became inundated by offers of books, or even the books themselves without being offered them first, from authors, publishers, editors, etc. I very soon discovered that there is no relationship between my enjoyment of a book and my feelings or thoughts about the giver or seller, whether or not that person is the author. I have got a lot better at predicting whether I will like a book or not before acquiring (or reading) it, but it is still an imperfect process. I've been distinctly underwhelmed by the personality of an author or a style of publicity, then enjoyed one of the books discussed. I've been enthused by the same sources, and then felt awkward at writing my honest thoughts about the book, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings or be a target for aggressive responses. So I'm going for the inflexible approach, now, of only reading what I want, persuaded by the input I choose (mainly recommendations or reviews by readers and reviewers I have come to trust; publishers' catalogues; and, of course, from among the Euro Crime listings and offerings). I still manage to acquire far more books than I can read, but at least I actively want to read them! And I might even go back to an old-fashioned serendipitous browse in a bookshop one of these days, who knows? ;-)