Another wild success, the American Booksellers Association's ninth Winter Institute drew more than 500 independent booksellers, including some 30 booksellers from around the world, to downtown Seattle for three days last week. The joy in the city over the Seahawks victory against the 49ers--which takes them to the Super Bowl this coming Sunday--seemed to mirror and magnify the spirit of indies, many of whom reported having the best holiday seasons and years ever. The area also offered a variety of excellent places to eat, drink and sing karaoke, as well as some of the best bookstores in the country to visit. Within range were Elliott Bay Book Company, Queen Anne Book Company, University Book Store, Third Place Books, Eagle Harbor Book Company, Island Books and many others. Even the mild weather was a nice reprieve for the hundreds who recently learned firsthand what a polar vortex is.
During the three days of panels, seminars, roundtables, speeches and intense socializing, booksellers did what many love most: they talked about books and bookselling, exchanging ideas in a way that is unusual for businesses that sometimes compete. The program included nuts-and-bolts topics--Gifts 101, Handselling 101, Managing Cash Flow--as well as advanced-level sessions like Managing the Changing Workplace and a session where senior booksellers pitched new business ideas. As one attendee said, explaining the attraction of Winter Institute over other conferences, shows and meetings: "More content, less BS."
|The always busy Galley Room
For his part, ABA president Steve Bercu, owner of BookPeople, Austin, Tex., said the Winter Institute had "a great energy that gets better every year." He noted that the Winter Institute's international guests were impressed--and nearly overwhelmed--by "all the enthusiasm."
ABA CEO Oren Teicher said that the association was "thrilled" with the winter Institute, which he called "as energizing for us as it is for members." Once again, he continued, "Booksellers have come and done what they do best--that is, share what they do every day." He pointed out that the 500 attendees included 200 first-timers, meaning that, as happens at Winter Institutes, "regulars" and booksellers new to WI "all get caught up in the spirit of sharing" and wind up going home and being "better booksellers." Like others, Teicher noted the many younger people in attendance. "We're energized by the younger booksellers, new stores and new owners," he said. (Quite a few attendees remarked that not long ago such gatherings were largely "gray-haired" affairs.)
Among the WI9 highlights: hundreds of authors meeting booksellers and talking about their books at presentations, meals and receptions; a rousing keynote by Dan Heath, author of Decisive; Indies First founder Sherman Alexie happily accepting an ABA T-shirt; six of the Seattle7 (now a much larger group of area authors), who talked about their activities; former ABA COO (and current Book Industry Study Group executive director) Len Vlahos's multimedia presentation for his YA novel, The Scar Boys, to an overflow audience; booksellers from Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark and other countries, who met at several lunches, were the focus of a panel and socialized enthusiastically with the U.S. crowd; Scholastic's much-appreciated party featuring a mix of ice cream and full bar late in the evening on Thursday; early-morning yoga sessions led by Susan Weis-Bohlen of breathe bookstore café, Baltimore, Md.; and, last but not least, the opening reception party at Elliott Bay Book Company, hosted by Shelf Awareness, that drew nearly all of the 500 Winter Institute booksellers for the biggest event in the store's history.
At Friday's breakfast, Oren Teicher announced that the 10th Winter Institute will be held in Asheville, N.C., February 9-11, 2015. The site is the Grove Park Inn, which Teicher described as "beautiful," an assessment Shelf Awareness can confirm. Teicher acknowledged that Asheville is not as easy as some previous Winter Institute locations to get to, but the association wanted, he said, "to do something different for the 10th meeting." The Inn and "the gestalt of Asheville," which will be like a "buy local lab for us," make for a powerful combination.
As always, we want to thank Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan for the idea of Winter Institute and the ABA for carrying out so well--yet again.
Shelf Awareness's coverage of WI9 continues this week. --John Mutter