Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Meeting Reports: DTF, NAIBA

Despite the purported summer doldrums, July was a busy month as booksellers came together for pooling our collective brains and planning for the future. My own brain is a bit fuzzy today as I seem to have contracted an icky summer cold, but I'll do my best to give you the scoop on the two meetings I attended this month.

Wednesday, July 11: American Booksellers Association Digital Task Force (ABA-DTF)
Participants:
* Beck Anderson (Anderson’s Bookshops – Naperville, IL)
* Tom Campbell (Regulator Bookshop – Durham, NC)
* Dan Cullen (Director Information Department – American Booksellers Assoc.)
* Avin Domnitz (CEO – American Booksellers Assoc.)
* Kelly Justice (Fountain Bookstore – Richmond, VA)
* Russ Lawrence (Chapter One Books – Hamilton, MT)
* Ricky Leung (Technical Lead – BookSense.com)
* Madeline MacIntosh (Senior VP and Publisher, Random House Audio Group)
* Jessica Stockon (McNally Robinson – New York, NY)
* Neil Strandberg (Tattered Cover – Denver, CO)
* Oren Teicher (COO – American Booksellers Assoc.)
* Len Vlahos (Director BookSense.com & Education – American Booksellers Assoc.)
* Dave Weich (Powells.com – Portland, OR)
* Jeff Wexler (IT Director – American Booksellers Assoc.)
* Eric Wilska (The Book Loft – Great Barrington, MA)

Thank goodness for emailed agendas -- while all of these booksellers and ABA staffers were insightful and fascinating, there's no way I would have remembered their names and associations without Len's helpful briefing. The Digital Task Force is a rotating group of booksellers and publishing folks convened occasionally by the ABA to address issues of emerging technology and how they relate to our industry -- and perhaps most importantly, to make sure independent booksellers have a seat at the table as the nature of the book changes in the internet age.

The meeting took place in the ABA offices in Tarrytown, New York, around a conference table littered with laptops, a Sony e-reader, and a projector to look at web pages on a large movie screen. Ideas were shared, theories were floated, experiences were analyzed, and jokes were made (the most memorable was one bookseller's suggestion that perhaps we needed to form a "Wake The F*** Up Task Force" for our still occasionally tech-phobic industry). I was especially fascinated by Eric Wilska's experience with an InstaBook machine, much like the Espresso Book Machine, which has added to his bottom line by printing books as a service and creating copies of out of print, public domain books that have a market in his region but are beneath the notice of any publishing company. It's just one of many opportunities indie bookstores have to take advantage of the redistribution of resources that the digital age portends, though of course these changes mean many challenges as well. The ABA, in my opinion and based on this meeting, is doing an excellent job of both keeping on top of developments in the tech world, and listening to its membership as they express how they think resources should be allocated in response.

We came up with a list of priorities, including bookseller education, BookSense developments, working with social networking sites (like Shelfari), monitoring trends in e-books, and more. I'm sure I'll be writing more about all these issues in future, and I'm looking forward to how they play out in the world of bookselling. Len Vlahos, who ran the meeting, is freshly married as of yesterday (CONGRATULATIONS!!), but he managed to contribute to a great rundown of the meeting for this article about the DTF in Bookselling This Week -- check it out for more details.

Monday, July 30: New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association Board of Directors Meeting
Participants:
Joe Drabyak, President (Chester County Book Company, West Chest, PA)
Lucy Kogler, Vice President (Talking Leaves Inc., Buffalo, NY)
Pat Kutz, Secretary/Treasurer (Lift Bridge Book Shop, Brockport, NY)
Lynn Gonchar, Past President (Tudor Bookshop & Cafe, Kingston, PA)
Betty Bennett (Bennett Books, Wyckoff, NJ)
Carla Cohen (Politics & Prose, Washington, DC)
Paul Emberley (Walck Sales & Marketing, Wayne, PA)
Harvey Finkel (Clinton Bookshop, Clinton, NJ)
Tim Hepp (Simon & Schuster, Ardmore, PA)
Rob Stahl (Colgate University Bookstore)
Jessica Stockton Bagnulo (McNally Robinson Booksellers, New York, NY)
Eileen Dengler, Executive Director (NAIBA, Westbury, NY)

The board of our regional booksellers association met in the offices of Random House in New York (thanks again to RH for the use of the Dr. Seuss meeting room, and a few moments of wistful thinking about what it might have been like to end up on the publishing side of things in this posh, beautiful office, until I came to my senses.) There were some goodbyes (Carla Cohen and Jack Buckley of 9th Street Books in Wilmington, DE are leaving the board after much faithful service) and some hellos (we discussed nominations [secret, of course] for the next slate of board members, and it was my first meeting with my new last name, so there was some good natured teasing from my seniors on the board, as well as a David Mitchell-themed wedding gift).

Mostly, we talked about (what I like to call) NAIBA-Con: the NAIBA Fall Conference being held in Baltimore October 14 and 15. We still have a bit of evangelizing to do in bringing everyone in the industry around to the new format for the show: streamlined and scaled down, with an increased focus on publishers pitching the best of their list to help booksellers sell, and practical education for booksellers to improve their stores. But as the model is spreading to other regions across the country, excitement is running high about the potential for the new conference. Loads of fabulous regional authors are lined up for the Moveable Feast and other aspects of the show, the educational panels are looking stellar, awards for authors and others are in the works, and Eileen is (as always) working out the finest details for our weekend at the Baltimore Sheraton. Keep your eyes on the mailbox for the conference registration materials, which will be showing up soon.

I'm off to gargle with salt water again -- back with the first of the Brooklyn Lit Life interviews on Friday!