On Friday, March 14, booksellers from five states attended an ABA/MPBA Booksellers Forum that was held at the Mountain and Plains Booksellers Association (MPBA) Spring Meeting and Regional Book Awards Celebration. The event took place in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the Radisson Santa Fe, and was part of a full program for booksellers that ran from Friday to Sunday, March 16.
The forum, which was held on Friday from 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m., covered a number of topics, but the focus was on the Book Sense marketing program. Len Vlahos, director of BookSense.com, and ABA Board candidate Gayle Shanks of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona, answered questions about the Book Sense Bestseller list, BookSense.com, and the current test of the BookSense.com publisher co-op program. (For more about the test program, click here.)
Karen Dallett of Books & Beyond in Heber, Utah, told BTW that "getting up to date with the information, and the membership was incredibly helpful." Paul Blevins of Bowlin's Mesilla Book Center in Mesilla, New Mexico, said he attended the forum -- his first -- because "I was mostly interested in learning more about Book Sense," and added that he left the forum with the intention of joining the program. Ironically, Catherine Weller of Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore in Salt Lake City, said that the success of Book Sense may leave less time in the forums for discussion of other ABA-related topics. At the meeting, she brought up the new ABACUS project because, she said, "I want people to be as excited [about ABACUS] so that they will report" their store data. "I think it is one of the best things that ABA does." (For more about ABACUS, click here.)
Booksellers contacted by BTW reported that the test of the BookSense.com publisher co-op program was discussed with a great deal of interest at the forum. Lindsay Lancaster of Bookworks in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said, "What I like hearing about the most -- what I am most excited about is the co-op program," which she noted was "an opportunity where I can pay for my Web site with co-op and we can focus on the selling of titles and not on the technical aspects of co-op." Preceding the forum, there was a BookSense.com Users Group Meeting, led by Vlahos.
The weekend also featured a number of MPBA sessions and the presentation, on Saturday evening, of the MPBA regional book awards. (For more on the book awards, click here.)
Three sessions garnered especially strong praise from attendees -- a "One Thing That Worked This Year in My Bookstore" roundtable; a repeat of the popular "Selling Sidelines Successfully" session (led by Changing Hands' Shanks); and a two-part panel on financial management led by Chuck Robinson of Village Books in Bellingham, Washington, and Bob Summer of Changing Hands. "I really did enjoy the financial management seminar," said Weller, "it was very helpful."
In addition to the scheduled programming, all booksellers contacted by BTW underscored that the impromptu conversations in hallways or over meals provided a valuable intangible benefit to the spring show. As Bookworks' Lancaster said, "I think it's always good to share ideas with other booksellers and to put ourselves in the larger context of bookselling." -- Dan Cullen