How independent booksellers can react to Amazon's purchase of Goodreads was a hot topic of discussion at the April 9 spring meeting of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association spring meeting that attracted about 60 booksellers.

ABA CEO Oren Teicher was on hand to present “The Top 10 Things You Must Do Now!” a collection of useful ideas based on 120 bookseller responses to a survey recently generated by ABA. Teicher’s PowerPoint presentation credited various indies for providing suggestions about everything from reviewing credit card bills to optimizing stores’ websites to the importance of communicating with customers. Regarding the latter, “I heard from the owner of Antigone Books in Tucson, who actually sets a timer at her desk that goes off every fifteen minutes,” says Teicher. “This is a good reminder to get up and walk around your store. See if any customers need help. It makes a difference.” Lake Forest Bookstore in Illinois sends a handwritten thank you note to customers that spend more than $100 in the store.

The issue of credit cards and their processing companies was of great interest to the audience in the packed room. Teicher explained that Green Apple Books in San Francisco saved $5,000 the first time the store got a quote from a competing credit card company. After doing this two additional times, Green Apple saved several thousand dollars more in processing fees. In a similar vein, Brett Hennessey of Hennessey & Ingalls in Santa Monica said that he reevaluates the store’s contracts with publishers every year in an effort to negotiate better discounts.

After the group broke for lunch, Teicher moderated the ABA Booksellers Forum. The hot discussion topic was Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads. Virtually none of the booksellers in the room have heard customer comment about this in their stores, but the indies are well aware of the serious challenge this could be to their livelihood. The attendees had plenty to say about how to deal with the situation. When Adrian Newell of Warwick’s Bookstore in La Jolla wondered aloud if something similar to Goodreads could be created for the IndieCommerce website, many booksellers at the meeting offered suggestions. Terry Gilman of Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego and Redondo Beach, Calif. spoke on the record when she urged Teicher to consider adding content – book reviews specifically – to the IndieBound website. “If we gathered the existing book reviews from all the indies’ websites and made them accessible in one place for our customers, it could go a long way toward steering customers away from Goodreads – and Amazon – and back to us,” said Gilman. “And I’m not just talking about reviews of the IndieNext picks. Among our SCIBA stores there are probably tens of thousands of staff reviews that could be organized and made available to customers. We’d need everyone’s input, but it would be worth the effort.”

The forum was followed by a one-hour Kobo eReader training session. “I felt this was much needed,” said Andrea Vuleta, executive director of SCIBA. “ The session actually brought up more questions [than answers], which may indicate the need for more Kobo training, either at our fall show or in conjunction with a larger book industry event.”

The meeting concluded with an author reception featuring Marisa Silver (Mary Coin), Stuart Gibbs (Spy Camp), and April Peveteaux (Gluten is My Bitch). Sharon Hoshida of Granada Books in Santa Barbara, which will open in June, was enthusiastic about being at the meeting. “As newcomers to the group and the business of bookselling we always learn new things to think about, new ideas for increasing sales, and the latest information about the industry as a whole. We all walked away feeling excited and confident in the knowledge that we have a solid network of friends to call upon for advice and guidance.”