#WI 11: Rocky Mountain Highlights
As if to emphasize to Winter Institute attendees the changing fortunes of bookselling chains and the lasting power of print books vis-à-vis digital, down a short block from the WI hotel in Denver was a recently shuttered Barnes & Noble and across the street was a sign for an R.R. Donnelly office.
The Winter Institute's hotel was in a section of Denver that featured many marijuana dispensaries (weed is legal in Colorado), which some attendees said were very professionally run, cash-only operations that carded all who entered. Asked how business was, one dispensary staff member said sales had jumped on Friday and were up substantially through the weekend--at least partly because of WI attendees, some of whom wore their WI/Shelf Awareness badges in the shop.
Speaking about Amazon at a session on Sunday and wanting to make a point about the difficulties faced by new and emerging authors, Douglas Preston said of his co-author on many titles, Lincoln Child, "Once the only person who attended an event for me was Lincoln's mother, and once the only person who attended an event for Lincoln was my mother."
At the same session, Richard Russo remembered a bookstore reading early in his career "where the bookseller optimistically set out a dozen chairs, then filled half of them with store employees."
During the session at which the Civic Economics/ABA study Amazon and Empty Storefronts was presented, Dan Houston and Matt Cunningham of Civic Economics mentioned the Amazon Prime program, which Cunningham called "a game changer," particularly because Prime Now aims to delivery orders to customers within two hours. When asked for a show of hands for Prime members in the room, not one of the nearly 200 people there responded, resulting in a round of applause.
Amy Cuddy began her keynote at Sunday's breakfast by paying tribute to the Tattered Cover, which she knew well because she had lived for a time in Colorado. "For me," she said, "the Tattered Cover is the icon of indie bookstores. Its logo is burned into my heart. I was so excited to be seated at the Tattered Cover table. I felt like a celebrity." Then Cuddy, whose new book is Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (Little, Brown), choked up, saying, "I give a lot of talks, but I've never been more honored to speak to an audience."
During her talk, Cuddy mentioned a staff member at Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, Mass., who recognized Cuddy while Cuddy was writing in the store, approached her and said that her life had been changed by Cuddy's famous TED talk on how body language shapes people. It had encouraged her finally to take the MCAT for med school, something she had wanted to do for a long time but had put off again and again. She told Cuddy, Cuddy said, that she did "the Wonder Woman thing," took the test "and totally nailed it!"
Congratulations to the hardworking staff of the American Booksellers Association, which nailed it once again, putting on an event that seems only to get better every year. As ABA CEO Oren Teicher said about the "debrief" session on Tuesday at the end of the Winter Institute, "the most astonishing thing was that the energy in that room was as high as it was at the opening party on Saturday." And a special shoutout to Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books, Miami, Fla., who more than a decade ago, while ABA president, had the idea of a winter meeting of booksellers... --John Mutter