NEW YORK - BookExpo America, the publishing industry's annual convention, was like a three-day seminar in how to fight and how to get along.

Authors, publishers, booksellers and agents at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center battled and bartered over e-books and other usual suspects, while they united in their passion for the well-told story and a common wish for success, even as they compete for the privilege of success.

"I think we all understand that a best-selling book helps everyone because it brings people into the stores, and then those people buy more books," said Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy.

The tone of the convention, which ended Thursday, brightened or darkened depending on whether the subject was the business or the book.

An opening-day forum that featured author Scott Turow, publishing executives David Shanks of Penguin Group (USA) and Robert Miller of Workman, and literary agent Esther Newberg was all business, as the panelists argued with and around each other about author royalties, e-book prices and whether the good old days were good.

"I'm scared to death," declared Newberg, an industry veteran whose clients include Caroline Kennedy and Carl Hiassen. "One of the only good things about being old is that I'm not going to have to deal with this for long."

But among books, and those who write them, it was good to be young or old, liberal or conservative. You could look forward to novels by Jonathan Franzen and Nicole Krauss, James Patterson and Stephen King.

During a luncheon, Christopher Hitchens quoted Shakespeare and recited dirty limericks, while at a breakfast, author-Duchess-Scandal Queen Sarah Ferguson could agree only that "real life is too extreme for fiction."