As BEA winds to a close we take a look at the most important part of the event - the book bags! It was a quiet year on the book bag front. Many were re-runs from last year (that's just cheap, dude), and some publishers (I'm looking at you Abrams) didn't even give out bags this year (horror!!). Before we go into what bags were the winners and losers I wanted to remind you about how we judge them.
The Anatomy of a Good Bag Handles — They have to be long enough to fit comfortably onto the shoulder, wide enough to not cut into you, and of a material (preferably fabric) that doesn’t slip. We can’t stress this enough. If a handle isn’t a good length and a decent width then the bag is rendered nearly useless for carrying a heavy load of books — unless you like holding the bag in your hand…which we don’t recommend unless you like numb hands and broken fingers.
Material – There are lots of materials for bags, but we feel that canvas is what it’s all about. Canvas is durable, washable, and comfortable against your body. We give a nod to bags that are made of a heavy duty plastic exterior. Unlike canvas, these bags have the ability to portray vivid colors and pictures, and with their slippery bottoms, are excellent for dragging along the expo floor. In general though, canvas is King. We want to mention a new trend this year of PAPER BAGS. Yes, you heard us right PAPER. We firmly put these in the pretty but useless category and hope to never see them again. Congrats to the Magic Tree House and Clifford on 20 and 50 years respectively though!
Rigidity — A bag must be firm enough to stand up on it’s own, so that books can be placed into it without a fight. Sad, thin, slippery material that can't hold itself up is frustrating and a wastes everyone's time. (not cool, dude!)
Shape — Since this is a book event and books are rectangular in nature, we like a square or rectangular bag. It just holds books better. Also the bottom MUST BE rectangular so it can stand upright. (please see above "Rigidity")
Size – Distribution of weight is a key feature to a good bag. Big is better right? No! When dealing with heavy items like books, a medium to small sized bag is best. It stops the user from overfilling, bruising their shoulders and throwing out their backs.
Branding – We don’t really care about this as much as the other features, but it’s something we think about. Someone paid money to create the bag to market their product, so if you don’t know what that product is, or can’t tell who made the bag, well, that just seems sad.
Look — Like FictionDB, bags are a tool — a resource to use. Therefore, functionality is key which is why, just like FictionDB strives to look good while being the ultimate place for information on fiction, we expect a bag to look good while being functional too.
Now onto the winners!
The "Returner” Bag
A new category for us this year, but one we're excited about because a bag that's worth bringing back to BEA the following year is a bag worth talking about. We had numerous sightings of this bag (sadly, I can't tell what publisher this is from!), and when one attendee was asked about bringing it back she stated, "I love the long handles, it stands up by itself, it isn't too big but it's the right size. And it's lasted this long." We couldn't have said it better. Although we didn't bring this bag back to show ourselves we have to admit to having and using it still.
The “Everybody’s Using It” Bag
We have a tie this year! We saw the DK bag on everyone, often with The Land of Stories bag right next to it.
DK: Quite frankly, only the short length of the handles held this bag back from being the best bag of 2012 BEA for us. Made of a thick canvas that zips, the pockets are great, and the size wonderful. But those straps! Too darned short. We kept seeing people struggling with them and watching them slip off shoulders.
TLOS: A wonderful canvas bag with long handles of the same canvas. The artwork is simple but eye catching, and the blue and green stood out. A great bag for show, and later at the beach.
The “Get’s the Job Done” Bag
This is the second year in a row for Ingram dominating this category. They have the same bag as last year and it meets the same specifications. A little on the large side, but well proportioned with good branding. It’s functional and we saw quite a few of them around the show. Bonus, it's one of the best to slid along the floor...which you'll probably end up doing if you fill it up.
The "Nostalgia" Bag
Not really a bag that we'd usually pay attention to, but it was talked about a lot because of the artwork. A Wrinkle in Time has 7 covers that FictionDB knows about, and the one that graces this bag is the original. Very exciting to book geeks who have probably all read this book at one point in their lives in not two, or three, or twenty. So congrats to 50 years and a book that spans the decades. Next time can you put this artwork on a better bag?
The “Sad Sack” Bag
To our horror we saw more bags in this category than usual this year, but the one that takes the prize is Chronicle's because they put so much effort into such a sad sack. The artwork is done by Mike Perry (should we know him?? Chronicle felt we should) and is fun to look at. But the bag. Wrong on soooo many levels. Dreaded short handles, wrong size, and negative rigidity make us shake our heads at who decided to invest money into this bag. We hope to see a better offering in 2013.
The “So Close it Hurts” Bag
With it's bright colors and Angry Birds this bag caught everyone's attention, but alas no one used it because the handles were too short! Square, rigid, and a great size and shape for books this bag could have been a contender, but instead we saw it folded up in peoples bags unused and often abandoned on the show room floor with unwanted book signing fliers.
The “Epic Fail” Bag
Another second year in a row winner...or would that be loser? It's even a bag I saw people waiting in line for this year. Which left us sad since we warned about this bag last year. (Hello? Is anybody out there??) We know this bag looks good, but as too many people learned, this bag fails. Everyone we spoke to said that in years past it was their favorite bag. One attendee even brought her old one back to use this year! But this year’s bag had lots of complaints — serious breakage problems. The handles kept busting off and a full bag would break out through the bottom. Please McGraw ditch your inventory of these terrible things and bring back the 2010 version.
The “Aww! It’s So Cute!” Bag
We think this bag speaks for itself. I mean look at it? How can you not say, "Awwwww..."?
The “Not For BEA But Totally Love it Later” Bags
We have to admit to loving this bad even though it's almost useless for BEA. Made of a wonderfully thick and fully lined canvas, with long thick (is it getting hot in here???) canvas handles this bag feels amazing both to the touch and while hanging comfortably off one shoulder. And the look...I mean LOOK at it! The printing is high quality that should stand up to numerous washing, crushing, and man handlings. This is a bag that may be too skinny and small to hold books, but we suspect will adorn people at beaches and in Trader Joes for day to day use.
The Bag to Rule Them All
In a crazy upset Abrams (which we still find to be the best all around) forfeits their title! When not seeing the Abrams bag on the floor this year we went over and asked about it only to be told they weren't giving a bag out this year. WHAT?! We were devastated by the news...until we found the Midpoint Trade Books bag. It doesn't look like much, and I think a lot of people passed it over since it's of a material we don't like and just looks lame. BUT with it's long handle and uber wide shoulder strap it was the most comfortable bag to tote around this year. It also holds a TON of books, and it's wide rectangular shape allowed for fast and easy top loading. Congratulations! Midpoint Trade Books, you are our winner!