Bay Area Celebrates Independent Bookselling

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A crowd of nearly 10,000 enjoyed the sun and an incredible variety of books offered by 44 bookstores.
A Book Sense favorite, children's author Matthew Gollub, read from his new book Gobble, Quack, Moon and demonstrated his taiko drumming skills.
Author/panelist Michael Connelly (A Darkness More Than Night) with NCIBA Executive Director Hut Landon (right).

On Saturday, July 20, the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA) presented the seventh annual Books by the Bay Festival, held for the second year in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens. The annual, free outdoor book fair featured activities, panels, performances, book signings, and displays by over 40 area independent booksellers. Some of the notable authors appearing included Book Sense 76 favorites, Ann Packer (The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, Knopf), Christopher Moore (Lamb, Morrow), and Tess Uriza Holthe (When the Elephants Dance, Crown).

According to Hut Landon, NCIBA executive director, the event "was a big success by all accounts." Landon compared numbers with last year’s extremely well-attended and well-received festival: "Attendance was somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000, although it’s an impossible site to count. Last year’s was 8,000. We had 70 authors, up from 60 last year; all panels, performances, and children’s events were up over last year. We added three speaking/performance areas this year -- the Steinbeck Stage (in honor of the Steinbeck Centennial), the Books by the Bay Stage, and the Children’s Stage. We also expanded the book area so that there was more space to sell and display."

Although the festival has grown steadily over the years, several factors regarding the publicity of this year’s Books by the Bay gave organizers some advance jitters. "This year, most of the authors were local, with no big, celebrity names. It was a wonderful list -- midlist authors, favorites of the independents. But we didn’t have a really big name to generate a lot of publicity," Landon told BTW.

Then the major daily and weekly newspapers listed the event incorrectly. "Both the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Bay Guardian got something wrong, including the date," Landon said. "But in spite of that, we drew as many or more than last year. After seven years, people are starting to expect it and look forward to it. The New York Times was a great sponsor for the event -- 5,000 copies of the program were put into the Sunday Times. We were also sponsored by the news/talk radio station KGO, 810 AM. We were offered a partnership with Starbucks, but we turned it down. As a national chain, it doesn’t represent what we’re about.

"This was really a celebration of independent bookselling. What was really remarkable was how 44 booksellers, each with a table, had completely different displays. It was an incredible example of the variety and diversity these stores offer, and 10,000 people came to see what independents are about."
--Nomi Schwartz