Wall Street may have been melting down, but the spirit and enthusiasm and wit among booksellers, reps and others over the weekend at the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association fall conference in Cherry Hill, N.J., made one forget about high (and low) finance for long stretches of time.
Several people suggested cash flow-squeezed bookstores and publishers might line up for the federal bailout. More seriously, others wondered how the holiday season would unfold: how lean will the supply chain be and how can the book business best position our products to customers who feel squeezed financially but want to provide entertaining, thoughtful and valuable gifts?
The two-day event featured extensive programming on Sunday and the trade show on Monday, which appeared to be a good combination, considering the solid attendance at workshops and a busy trade show floor the second day.
Among the many amusing and poignant acceptances:
The winner of NAIBA's legacy award, Morgan Entrekin, president and publisher of Grove/Atlantic, spoke eloquently about publishing and the future of the book, saying that "we need a diversity of voices" in the country and that books and booksellers offer that. Books, he said, "can do something no other media can" in teaching people about a range of topics and are "the basis of our culture and civilization. . . . They will be around for a long time." He also said that he had been "blessed" to lead the life and career he has, including his connections with many "bookseller friends."
Cecilia Galante, author of The Patron Saint of Butterflies and winner of NAIBA's children's literature award, spoke of the difficulties she had entering high school after growing up in a cult. Fleeing down a corridor in her new school, she opened a door and found herself in the library--and amazingly grabbed a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. Reading the book made her feel not so alone and made her want to be a writer. She choked up several times, as did many in the audience.
A.J. Jacobs, who NAIBA's nonfiction award for The Year of Living Biblically, word for word was probably the funniest person at the show and seemed to relish being among, as one person put it, "book nuts."
Two other comedians were Ann M. Martin and Brian Selznick, author and illustrator, respectively, with Laura Godwin of The Runaway Dolls, the third in the Doll People series. The pair spoke haltingly as they read from a script that aimed to sound spontaneous. They even enlisted one of the hotel staff to ask a question written on a paper she held high in front of her.
Robin Gaby Fisher, author of After the Fire: A True Story of Friendship and Survival, spoke and introduced one of the subjects of her book, Shawn Simons, a survivor of the 2000 fire in a Seton Hall University dorm that killed three other students. Simons' tale drew him a standing ovation.
Da Chen, whose new YA book is Forbidden Tales: Sword, said he was "honored to be in the same room with Oscar Hijuelos," but found it "no fair that Oscar is writing a YA novel. He's in the major leagues!"
Retired Colonel Jack Jacobs, whose memoir is If Not Now, When?: Duty and Sacrifice in America's Time of Need, said he had to write a funny memoir, otherwise it would be like so many retirees' stories, which he summed up as: "My head hurts, and all my friends are dead."
New and prospective booksellers in attendance included Lona D. Shields,
owner/proprietress of Echo Books in Chester Springs, Pa., who opened
her store in July. Echo offers new and used books, cards and gifts
"with a healthy alternative feel." Echo is located at 1024 Pottstown
Pike, Chester Springs, Pa. 19425; 484-341-8362; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
D. Zimiles is in the process of buying Goldfinch Books, Maplewood,
N.J., and intends to make major changes. More on this as the story unfolds.
And Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, who gets ever closer to opening a store in Brooklyn and told us that she had been mentioned in Shelf Awareness too many times in the past week, was on hand--and now merits yet another mention in Shelf Awareness.
NAIBA president Joe Drabyak of the Chester County Book Company, West Chester, Pa., summarized some of the association's ongoing and new programs, including the "very successful" trunk shows; the book buddies program, done with Bookazine, that involves booksellers visiting a store and offering advice and commentary; the NAIBAhood gatherings ("we'll be doing more of these"); cooperation with AMIBA, the American Independent Business Alliance; among other initiatives. Drabyak sounded most proud of the association's role in New York State's new law that aims to make Amazon.com and other online retailers collect sales tax on sales to people in the state. "It's a great thing," he said. "And it's spreading to other states."
Drabyak also praised the recently founded Independent Booksellers of New York City (Shelf Awareness, September 11, 2008), which "had a successful launch at the Brooklyn Book Festival." Kelly Amabile of Book Culture was passing out copies of one of the group's first projects, an impressive map and listing of indies in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Congratulations to Margot Sage-EL, owner of Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., who was elected to the NAIBA board of directors.
A new program that is being tested exclusively with NAIBA comes from BookSpots, which produces book trailers and author profiles for the publishing industry. Under the program, NAIBA member bookstores can use the trailers and video profiles on their websites or e-mails or on video monitors in-store with a free, six-month subscription. Currently three videos are available for the NAIBA pilot program. BookSpots's Jason Calfo told Shelf Awareness that eventually the company hopes to expand nationally and create a range of videos--which would be available exclusively to indies the first 30 days. The videos are designed to "sell in a soft way," Calfo said.
Next year's NAIBA fall conference will be held Sunday and Monday, October 4 and 5, in Baltimore, Md. The 2010 fall conference will be in Atlantic City, N.J., Sunday and Monday, September 26 and 27.--John Mutter