Like every other historian I know, I love books and can’t resist a deal (or free ones). Publishers are aware of this, and they enable us to quench our thirst for new reading material by setting up huge exhibition halls at academic conferences like the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA) that I’ve been attending this weekend. In the exhibit halls, every major academic and many large trade publishers have booths at which they display their wares. Even better, they sell those books at reduced prices—university presses usually give a discount of at least 25 percent, which on Sunday morning (the last day of the conference) can rise to 50 percent. Trade publishers offer even deeper price cuts, generally selling paperbacks for $3-5 and hardcover books for $10.

What does this mean for me? It means that in three short visits to the book exhibit (each one lasting 30-45 minutes), I acquired everything pictured here:


Yes, that is a lot of books. In my (partial) defense, six of the twenty-one were free—two are uncorrected galleys, two I received in exchange for signing up for a publisher’s newsletter, one was being handed out by the press, and one was given to me by an editor with whom I will be working on a new project in the coming year. The other fifteen books cost me a grand total of $104. And one is a gift, so that doesn’t count, right?

But regardless of what I paid for them, or their intended destination, all twenty-one books need to get home with me this afternoon, and packing them has been quite a feat. I think I’ve managed to squeeze them all into my suitcase, backpack, and the tote bag that Penguin was thoughtfully handing out to shoppers at its booth, but we’ll see how easy it is to maneuver everything onto the Metro as I head to Union Station. I’m making two mental notes for next year’s AHA in New York: (1) bring more cash, and (2) use a larger suitcase, even if it seems half-empty on the trip to the meeting. It assuredly won’t be on the way home.