The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance’s September 7-9 annual meeting held in Naples, Fla., kicked off not only the regional fall trade show season, but the American Booksellers Association’s road show. The road show's goal? To convince its members of the benefits of signing up for the association’s recently announced agreement with Kobo under which member stores can sell Kobo devices and digital content.

At a well-attended session Friday afternoon ABA CEO Oren Teicher presented more details about both the Kobo deal as well as the ABA’a arrangement to have Ingram distribute devices to member stores. To entice booksellers to order the e-readers, Ingram is offering a launch package that with an order for 10 devices (five each for the Kobo Glo and Mini) bookstores will receive a display unit and a demo free. Booksellers will also not need to pay Ingram for Kobo devices until January 15 and any ordering of devices will not impact regular book ordering from Ingram. The launch offer expires October 20.

Given the long lead time Ingram needs to order devices, the wholesaler needs to place an order this week and Teicher said SIBA members would play an important role in helping to determine what the order should be. By the end of the show, Teicher told PW that he felt “comfortable” that ABA will deliver the 400 stores it had discussed with Kobo about participating in the program.

Bookstore owners will earn a 5% margin on the sale of the devices and will share equally in profits on the sale of the content with Kobo. ABA estimates that booksellers will earn about 8% from the list price of the e-book, a price that will be set by Kobo. Once a customer buys a device from a particular store, that store will continue to share in all content sales until the customer decides to switch to another store (including if he or she moves). The agreement with Kobo is for three years.

Booksellers at the show seemed willing to give Kobo a try. “There is no point in not trying it,” said Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Books in Athens, Ga., adding that it was important to her to be able to offer her customers an e-book option by Christmas. Jaime Fiocco, owner of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, N.C. and president of SIBA, said the Kobo deal,”gives us a chance to get in the game. She stressed that it will be important for independents to make selling e-books a regular part of their business if they expect to succeed. “You have to be 100% in,” she said.

More Than Kobo

While more e-books could be coming to indies this fall, the focus for the rest of the SIBA show was on upcoming print editions. Booksellers agreed that the fall list is a strong one. Kelly Justice, owner of The Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Vir. observed that she doesn’t see any problems finding the right book for customers this year. Among titles that drew immediate favorable reactions from booksellers at the Sales Rep Picks session were Astray, Indigestion, The End of Your Life Book Club, I Have a Dream, Modernist Cuisine and Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. The graphic novel Anomaly attracted the attention of a number of booksellers along with YA novels Etiquette & Espionage, Navigating Early and The Raven Boys.

The vibe on the exhibit floor was generally positive, helped no doubt by Teicher’s report that through September 4, unit sales for the roughly 500 stores that report sales to Nielsen BookScan were up 11.5%, news that helped to offset the disappointment of the approval by Judge Cote of the Justice Department’s settlement in the e-book case with Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. Traffic on the floor was steady Saturday morning, but thinned a bit in the afternoon. Still, Doug Mendini, director of national accounts of Kensington Publishing, said the company was glad to be at SIBA to promote The Cherry Cola Book Club, a debut by Mississippi author Ashton Lee set for release in the spring. “SIBA has a very strong tradition of supporting regional authors,” Mendini said.

SIBA executive direct Wanda Jewell said total attendance was down slightly this year, which she attributed to the early date, the location in the deep south and the relatively long ride from the airport to the Waldorf Astoria. “We’ve done all of these in the past, but never at the same time,” she said, adding that she expects a good turnout when SIBA returns to New Orleans next year for the first time since Katrina.