The conference was held for the first time last year and was a blend of technology AND genealogy but from what I saw online (they had some lectures available for free online), it was mostly technical. Of course, at the actual venue where it took place there were vendors selling and plugging not only technical items you could use for genealogy but also books. If I'm wrong about that please forgive me, but if they hadn't been I think the current discussion would've been around a year ago.
But this year they seemed to think that book vendors wouldn't be necessary, not a 'ban' of sorts but just not useful to researchers. But isn't that how most of us 'old-timer' genealogists started out? With books? When I started my research WAY back in 1991, the Internet didn't even exist at least not like it does now. There's were any cell phones or iPads, iPhones and the like and Facebook was probably only a thought in the back of the founders mind (or not). My paternal grandfather started his research in the 1970s BEFORE the miniseries Roots aired on television. He could only work with books and microfilm readers and writing LETTERS (yes actual letters no electronic mail for him).
When I began I found two BOOKS that he had and started with those, Searching For Your Ancestors and a book about my surname FRY. That's how a 'learned' what genealogy and the research behind it was. I also didn't have a computer back then (and if I did there wasn't a genealogy program for it) so I used the old standby, paper and pencil. My grandfather drew his OWN pedigree chart and I followed his example until I found templates of Pedigree charts and Family Group Sheets to use. I may record information in a genealogy program now, but I still use binders and notebook paper and I take notes the old-fashioned way (better than I did in high school).
But here's something else to consider, with the economy the way its been the last couple of years some (if not most) people can't AFFORD fancy 'toys' like laptops, iPads, and iPhones just to do genealogy research on. Heck, some books are pricey too, but those at least can be found cheaper on ebay. I know I've found a number of books on the auction site and even though they are older or even 'outdated' by some standards, I still rely on them from time to time because everyone, especially genealogists need a refresher on the basics of research.
I think its a shame that the organizers not only informed book vendors and publishers that they wouldn't be 'needed' at the conference but the fact that they did this TWO MONTHS before the event when the vendors have probably already made plans to attend and put the money aside to register and reserve hotel space. What do they do now? The time was set aside for the conference and everything else was turned down.
As of this blog entry, the organizers have seen all the uproar and discussion revolving around the decision and are taking the comments into consideration. I hope they realize the mistake they made passing judgement on the book vendors and publishers and reverse the decision. The conference should focus on both genealogy AND technology but it shouldn't omit the one thing that even newcomers to genealogy might rely on, BOOKS.