Booksellers Participate in ABA Forums, Regional Programs in CO, GA, OR

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During the last week in March, the American Booksellers Association held Booksellers Forum programs in Estes Park, Colorado; Atlanta, Georgia; and Portland, Oregon. ABA staff attending one or more of the events included ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz, COO Oren Teicher, Chief Program Officer Len Vlahos, and Chief Marketing Officer Meg Smith.

Estes Park, Colorado

ABA's Booksellers Forum program in Estes Park, Colorado, was held in conjunction with the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association's Spring Meeting, at the Rocky Mountain Park Holiday Inn from Wednesday, March 26, through Friday, March 28. The Spring Meeting "went really well, though I'm probably biased," said MPIBA President Andy Nettell of Arches Book Company in Moab, Utah.

The event began on Wednesday evening with an MPIBA Cocktail Party at MacDonald's Bookshop. On Thursday, programming kicked off with MPIBA's breakfast featuring Simple Prosperity author David Wann, followed by ABA's education session "Booksellers at the Tipping Point: Leveraging Localism and Independence to Promote Your Store," which focused on how concepts of localism, independence, and sustainability are gaining traction with consumers, and how bookstores can be at the center of this movement. Nettell, whose store is part of a Shop Local group in Moab, said of the growing trend, "We'll hopefully be able to ride that wave."

Dan Valley of MacDonald's Bookshop, who explained that he had felt the trend toward localism himself, added that he "was quite impressed" with the information presented at the ABA session.

Following lunch, ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz, COO Oren Teicher, and Board member Cathy Langer of Tattered Cover Bookstore facilitated the Booksellers Forum, where "the big buzz was buying local," Valley reported. And Joe Foster of Maria's Bookshop in Durango, Colorado, noted via e-mail, "Everyone seemed to be really excited about the new 'customizable' websites."

The day's education sessions concluded with the "Nothing's Greener Than Cash" panel discussion of MPIBA programs that can drive consumers to the bookstore. Special events included an MPIBA cocktail party and author dinner.

Friday's MPIBA programming included the Children's Author & Illustrator Breakfast, Pick of the Lists, and a box lunch and panel "Paperless Marketing and Digital Support for the Books You Love to Sell."

"I really enjoyed the discussion concerning 'paperless' marketing," Foster said. "I immediately started playing around with the idea of adding video to an e-newsletter, and found it to be pretty simple and much, much cooler than plain old text. What better way to promote an author event than to show a four-minute video interview as a teaser?"

Nettell noted, "There was a fantastic lineup of authors ... they astounded." He made special mention of the 'Paperless Marketing' lunch, and noted, "It opened a lot of eyes to the fact that there are a lot of possibilities that traditional booksellers haven't thought of -- a lot of nontraditional marketing."

"I thought the event was very inspiring," Valley said. "I really appreciated the authors that were there."

"I thought the Spring Meeting was incredibly useful," Foster said. "The fact that there were no competing sessions meant that I didn't miss anything and the smaller venue cranked the camaraderie and networking aspect up a few notches. The view from my hotel room window was pretty spectacular, to boot. I'm pretty surprised that more folks don't attend the Spring Meeting. They're just missing out on one of the things that make our regional association so vibrant."

Events like the Spring Meeting "allow us to keep a connection with our colleagues," Nettell said. "We're a family. Bookselling is great in that regard ... it's great to see the sharing of ideas."

Atlanta, Georgia

From Friday, March 28, through Sunday, March 30, booksellers gathered at the Hilton Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia, for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Spring Meeting and the Spring Book Show. In conjunction with the events, ABA presented a Booksellers Forum and the educational session "Booksellers at the Tipping Point: Leveraging Localism and Independence to Promote Your Store." ABA COO Oren Teicher and Chief Marketing Officer Meg Smith participated in the program.

"The Spring Book Show was great," said SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell via e-mail. "The crowd was enthusiastic, and we had so many booksellers attend. All of the education was well received."

Overall, Kathy Bennett of Undercover Books in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, said she found the Spring Meeting educational programming to be "extremely motivational, informative, and inspiring."

Even though Pat Hutchinson-Day is planning to open a bookstore in Binghamton, New York, she attended the SIBA Spring Meeting and Spring Book Show "with the goal of learning about the remainder/overstock aspect of the industry and how we might use its offering to help with out store's profitability, when we begin operating," she told BTW via e-mail.

About ABA's "Booksellers at the Tipping Point," Hutchinson-Day said, "The program expanded on some of the themes we heard about from speakers at the ABA Winter Institute and offered a tool kit for how to promote your store as an independent/local business." And she added, "We definitely plan on using these ideas in Binghamton, and hope to be a catalyst for change in our downtown, which is itself at a crossroads, with a fledgling revitalization effort."

Bennett said the "Tipping Point" was "fabulous. I'm completely on board with the whole plan. I agree with [ABA COO] Oren [Teicher] that this is a current trend [and] that booksellers need to climb on board. It's something I'd definitely like to pursue."

Another highlight for Bennett was SIBA's "Strength in Numbers" with Jeff Milchen of the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA). "That was excellent," she said. "The session provided wonderful information. For me, I really love these educational [programs] -- they've been invaluable. They are helping me with organizing events, new ideas ... I am a big believer in attending them."

On Saturday, ABA's Teicher and Smith facilitated the Booksellers Forum. Hot topics of the forum included the localism movement, ABA's sales tax efforts, print-on-demand (POD) publishing, and the importance of having an online presence.

"Again a big topic was the Buy Local movement and how we can find time to do that," said Asha Colianni of Undercover Books. "There was also a lot of discussion on websites fulfilling orders ... and the importance of having an online presence. Some people talked about how they promote their online presence in-store. There was also discussion of the green movement, too, and how that affects bookstores."

The forum also included a discussion of how the publishing industry is not working together to promote reading, said Kelly Justice of Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia, who is a SIBA Board member.

"What I came away with [from the forum] is that survival in the present environment will require a good deal of creativity, activism, and collective effort among independent businesses," said Hutchinson-Day.

Overall, Justice said the SIBA meeting continues to grow. "Attendance was up this year and there was a positive response. There were a lot of new booksellers with new bookstores."

Portland, Oregon

On Saturday, March 29, approximately 35 booksellers gathered at Heathman Hotel in Portland, Oregon, for an ABA Booksellers Forum, held in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. The ABA program, which featured a forum discussion and "Booksellers at the Tipping Point: Leveraging Localism and Independence to Promote Your Store," was followed by PNBA's 2008 Book Awards Presentation Party.

Participating in the ABA program was CEO Avin Mark Domnitz, Chief Program Officer Len Vlahos, and President Russ Lawrence of Chapter One Book Store in Hamilton, Montana.

Thom Chambliss, executive director of PNBA, noted via e-mail that his Board "unanimously liked the entire day's events. They appreciated the educational session and forum, and seemed delighted with the award party."

The day began with a light buffet lunch, sponsored by ABA, followed by "Booksellers at the Tipping Point." Claudia Wohlfeil of the University of Idaho Bookstore in Moscow, Idaho, who is a PNBA Board member, said that she thought the session was "really great. ABA does a great job of putting together education sessions. Going to the education sessions are what I get the most out of -- Avin and Len did a fantastic job of putting this together."

Roberta Dyer of Broadway Books in Portland echoed Wohlfeil's sentiments. "I thought it was good. I always look forward to Len's presentations ... and Avin is an inspiring person to listen to, and he presents his thoughts well. I was inspired."

Domnitz, Vlahos, and Chapter One Book Store's Lawrence facilitated the Booksellers Forum. Hot topics of the forum included ABA's ends policies, how ABA can service both large and small stores, and localism. And Wohlfeil noted there was some discussion about digital content and whether this will end up replacing books.

The day concluded with PNBA's 2008 Book Awards Presentation Party, where attendees enjoyed hors d'oeuvres and a complimentary beer and wine bar. A book signing followed the awards ceremony and complimentary books provided by the publishers.

"It's great to recognize those authors," said Wohlfeil. "I love being able to take the books we just awarded and [handselling them in the store]. It gives me the opportunity to promote PNBA and these authors." --David Grogan