A move to the South San Francisco Conference Center after holding its trade show in Oakland for the last 25 years seemed to bring a fresh excitement and sense of purpose to the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association regional event held on October 11 and 12.
Although the new facility is 20% smaller than the one in Oakland it easily accommodated all of the usual exhibitors, who have taken smaller booths in recent years, and the crush of attendees packing the aisles. The NCIBA membership meeting kicked off the show, with Hut Landon, executive director of the association, detailing the recent merger of the Northern California Children’s Booksellers Association with NCIBA and also discussed its new partnership with GoodReads and its book awards. “There are 22 categories in the GoodReads contest,” Landon told PW, “and indies are signing up to display and carry the winning titles. This promotion will connect us with the GoodReads demographic.”
In a brief talk to the membership, ABA’s Dan Cullen and Joy Dallanegra-Sanger thanked NCIBA for turning the years-long effort to force Amazon to charge sales tax in California into a reality. “We’ve reached the tipping point,” said Cullen. “Texas, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas are all collecting tax through sales to Amazon now. You should feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment.”
In discussing this year’s new venue Karen West, director of events for Book Passage in Corte Madera, echoed the sentiment of many in attendance. “The move worked,” she told PW. “The location is good, the hotel is just steps away, and the publishers are in good spirits. With everyone’s business up the atmosphere is festive.”
The most anticipated panel was Thursday’s “E-Books and Independent Bookstores,” which discussed the ABA’s decision to partner with Kobo in the creation of reading devices to be sold through indies with access to three million e-book titles in the Kobo catalogue. Similar to the industry’s challenge of adapting to Edelweiss as paper catalogues began to disappear, the reality of having access to selling reading devices – in this case Kobo’s Glo or Mini versions – directly to the indies’ customers has the potential to change bookselling’s potential. “Kobo is the most important and skilled partner we could ask for,” Cullen said. “And the program offers choices and options.” Although the 5% margin on the devices caused some grumbling in the room, Cullen countered by saying that for every device sold, customers are buying accessories for them. “This is where the great margin comes in,” Cullen observed. In addition, each launch order from Kobo is virtually risk-free because the devices are fully returnable through mid-January, and Ingram, which is handling distribution, will pick up the cost of freight.
“Most booksellers know they have to sell reading devices and e-books now,” Landon said. “If I had a store I would be happy to do it at break-even in order to keep my customers away from Amazon.” Landon also speculated that eventually the ABA will negotiate better terms with Kobo. “There’s strength in numbers, and with Borders gone there are almost as many indies as Barnes & Noble stores.” PW spoke with several booksellers at the show, all of whom said they’ll order at least one Kobo display.
Similarly, the consensus among booksellers was that they expect the holiday season to emulate the entire year’s upward sales swing and be the strongest in years. The most talked about books at the show included The Polish Boxer (Eduardo Halfon), May We Be Forgiven: A Novel (A.M. Homes), Bouchon Bakery (Thomas Keller), Lemony Snicket’s “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” and Squid and Octopus (Tao Nyeu).