Sunday, July 24, 2011

Aux Armes, Booksellers!

The 2011 ABA conference (we've filled the Hilton On The Park with our raucous bookish enthusiasm) kicked off this morning with a keynote address by Becky Anderson, co-owner of Anderson's Bookshop in Illinois and the President of the American Bookseller's Association.

Becky talked about her family business, still in business five generations on. Initially just a drugstore, they soon started selling books (and other sundries). As such, she rawther hilariously pointed out that she comes from a long line of drug pushers - but that drug pushers are also book lovers.

As she spoke on, it felt like a wonderfully rousing call to arms. Things are changing, no doubt about it. Bookselling "can no longer be business as usual." Bookshops are creaking, groaning and we need new strategies and innovative business practices. We need to start with a clean slate.

Booksellers and publishers need to work together to a common goal. That goal being: sell more books. We need price protection on eBooks, engaged and collaborative booksellers, new and innovative business practices, e-commerce enabled websites. And passion. Lots of passion.

Becky gave us some SCARY FACTS. Such as:

Amazon are calling the big publishers in NYC to lure their best editors away. If they have their own imprints, and their own distribution, they have an enormous industry monopoly. We booksellers (and publishers) need to stand up to those "who treat books as a lost leader" who offer the great deals on books to lure people to buy other things.

But she also gave us some UPLIFITNG STORIES:

Macmillan publishers in the US decided that enough was enough and that Amazon's pricing of $9.99 for an eBook was unacceptably underpriced (highlighting the need for an agency model concerning eBook pricing). When Amazon didn't accept this, the publisher put them on stop - simply ceased to supply their titles to them. A powerful action, Macmillan has since been joined by other major publishers. Rawr!

In America last year, Amazon dominated, with 80% of the eBook market. But this year, after the introduction of Barnes and Noble's Nook, their numbers have dropped down to just over 50%. In Australia we're still at the starting out point when it comes to bookshops and eBooks. Readings has introduced and that is a fabulous start, but we need to enable all stores to access this kind of software (but that's a discussion for another session).

In the UK and Ireland this year World Book Night was a fabulous success and saw a million books given away to strangers in the street and to those who don't have easy access to books, such as those in hospitals and prisons. The US will be joining the party next year with their own World Book Night to take place on Shakespeare's birthday.

We need to acknowledge the need to do things differently, we need a new approach and to not be afraid of trying lots of different tactics in order to find the thing that works.

A marvellous start to the conference. Becky is a wonderful speaker and she reminded me why I love bookselling and puffed up my pride a little (or a lot) in regards to my employ, saying: "We are the tastemakers, the loudmouths. We put books on the map."


  1. Sounds like a great conference. So glad that there's still so much passion in the book industry. Whatever happens with e-books, there will always be people who love books, and love stories.
    Robyn Bavati

  2. Thanks Robyn - exactly! So keep writing books, writing stories. eBooks are just another kind of book. It has been such a great day today - I'll be posting more highlights!


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