The Canadian Booksellers Association’s second annual national conference set for May 28 to 30 promises to be bigger than the organization’s first effort to create a successor to BookExpo Canada last year. Increased publisher participation may be the clearest sign of growth. Last year, only seven publishers set up display tables with Penguin Group (Canada) as the sole multinational participating, although others provided financial support through the Canadian Publishers Council. This year, however, there will be twice as many publishers exhibiting, including the Literary Press group representing multiple independent publishers as well as HarperCollins Canada, Simon & Schuster Canada, and Penguin Group (Canada). Random House of Canada and McClelland & Stewart are not participating, but Random House of Canada is sponsoring the Libris Awards gala evening event at which the CBA will announce the winners of its awards in categories such as author, publisher and bookseller of the year. Penguin, Scholastic, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons are also sponsoring the conference.
Last year’s summer conference attracted 82 booksellers and the CBA is expecting between 85 to 100 this year. “So far things are looking really good,” said Carol Ship Spencer who has been fielding inquires about the conference since executive director Susan Dayus retired at the end of April. Spencer noted that booksellers are coming from both east and west coasts and as far north as Inuvik in the Northwest Territories.
The event will also be in a bigger space at the Delta Toronto Airport West Hotel. In the downtown Toronto hotel where last year’s event was held, publisher tables were arranged around a broad atrium and staircase, and the narrow floor space around the tables was rather congested. This year, the publishers’ tables will be in a ballroom with much more space to maneuver. The CBA also hoped that the location near the airport would allow people to attend the conference on their way back from BookExpo America in New York.
Spencer said the conference’s theme, Survive, Revive and Thrive: Redefining Your Bookstore for Today’s Marketplace, “reflects the challenging economic times, increased competition and new technological challenges booksellers are facing” and will focus on strategies for booksellers to reinvent themselves. Keynote speakers are retail experts John Torella and Kevin Graff. Educational sessions will be offered on improving use of social media, finding “hidden money” in your store, growing your graphic novel business, loss prevention, and a presentation from the Retail Council of Canada on government relations issues facing retailers. BookManager president Michael Neil will also offer session on Friday about the latest update to his company’s software and demonstrate how BookManager can help stores adapt to online catalogues and new ways of buying books.
Spencer said the CBA tried to build the conference to afford those who attend a variety of opportunities for networking, including new elements such as the opening night reception and the Libris Awards dinner. “That’s really what it is all about is just getting buyers and sellers together,” she said.
The CBA will also hold its AGM on Sunday morning. It is still in the process of hiring a new executive director to replace Dayus.