During the 41st annual New England Booksellers Association annual meeting, which took place in Providence, R.I., talk of Amazon was in the air. At a talk with American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher, bookseller Joan Grenier, of Odyssey Book Shop in South Hadley, Mass., asked the question that was clearly on the minds of many: “Are we at a moment in time where an antitrust suit against Amazon is a possibility?”
Teicher, responding to questions about the possibility of antitrust action, said: "One of the ramifications of the whole Amazon-Hachette controversy has been an awareness of Amazon practices." He then added: "We’ll keep pressing the case. The efforts of Authors United have been helpful. Things are changing.” He also reminded booksellers that “we’re getting the media’s attention not just to talk about Amazon but the success of independents. We’re trying to decouple the word ‘endangered’ from ‘bookstore.’”
While Amazon may have been the subject of some of more fiery conversations at the show, there was certainly a sense that attendees were in high spirits. Although final attendance figures weren’t available at press time, NEIBA executive director Steve Fischer told PW that the numbers were up and that he was particularly happy to see more publishing executives in the crowd.
The high spirits, and strong attendance figures, may be thanks to the fact that New England has seen a rash of new bookstores open recently. Among the new shops are Jack & Allie’s children’s bookstore in Vernon, Ct.; Wicked Good Books in Salem, Mass.; and the about-to-open Papercuts, JP, in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston.
Nonetheless, Amazon even cropped up in conversations about regional issues. Some booksellers expressed anger over the news, which surfaced this summer, that the e-tailer is opening a warehouse in Massachusetts. The new warehouse--set to be operational by November--brought up conversations of potential tax breaks for the e-tailer; some booksellers said the tax breaks would highlight yet another unfair advantage Amazon has in conducting business.
Even at the awards ceremony Amazon wasn’t far from the surface. Lily King, who received the New England Book Award for fiction for Euphoria opened her talk by saying, “If it weren’t for you and your fight against Amazon and other monsters, we’d all be reading one novel, The Goldfinch, and a handful of celebrity memoirs.” President’s Award recipient Sy Montgomery, who has swum with sharks and hung out with tarantulas, said, “the chances you will be eaten by Amazon are much higher. You are the ones taking risks.”
For a closer look at children's books at NEIBA, see NEIBA 2014: A Show of Enthusiasm from Children's Booksellers.