Sweet Marias.com has a wealth of info on all of the origins. Also, if you do a search on the author Kenneth Davids you will find several books written by him. He is highly regarded in the Specialty Coffee realm.
I dont know about conferences or books, but I know a good way to get ot know coffee first hand. If you want a cheap means of doing this do as I did through Gevalia and their promotional sales. They have a decent selections of different flavors and roasts both whole bean and grounded and the greatest thing is they give you a free coffee machine and travel mug or whatever else is part of their promotion. The coffee ships in small amounts (10 oz or so, I am not 100% sure since I did this a while ago), but once you are done you can always cancel the monthly coffee shipment and keep the coffee machine and whatever else they give. This site has their latest promotions I found if you are interested. www.eventdeals.com/gevalia/gevalia_index.htm