The Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association Spring Con took place April 5-7 in San Antonio, Tex., attracting more than 150 professionals—including 89 booksellers—to the historic Menger Hotel next to the Alamo for three days of author pitches, idea sharing, and professional development. “The headline for the event is that the number of MPIBA member booksellers in Texas now outnumbers the number in Colorado, previously our largest group, for the first time,” Heather Duncan, executive director of MPIBA, said. Texas now accounts for 84 of MPIBA’s total membership of 242. As a consequence, Duncan said that MPIBA will now make SpringCon a permanent fixture in San Antonio. Previously, the event had been hosted in both San Antonio and Denver in subsequent weeks. “Having everyone in one place is much better, since most authors and publishers couldn’t make both events and would have to choose one over the other,” Duncan added.

SpringCon hosted 40 authors and a further 36 attendees from the industry. Among the authors who appeared were several bold-faced names from Texas, including Elizabeth Crook, Cynthia Leitich Smith, James Wade and Bryan Washington, as well as several more who flew in for the event, such as Safiya Sinclair and Betty Tang. Among the companies who sent representatives to the show were, Penguin Random House,, and Ingram Content Group.

Deborah Condit was among several new booksellers who attended. She is opening Books on the Bosque in Albuquerque. “I’m here to learn as much as I can,” she said, noting that Albuquerque has relatively few bookstores for a city its size. The same could easily be said for Houston, which is the fourth largest city in the U.S. by population, but which only has a handful of independent bookstores. The newest store to open is Class Bookstore, a Black-owned bookstore run by Dara and Dave Landry. “It’s just great to be here among our fellow booksellers and book lovers. It’s great to feel all the energy,” said Dara Landry. Class Bookstore began in Houston as a pop-up shop in 2021 and moved into a storefront in December 2022. The couple have mastered branding and were fashionably attired in a variety of Class Bookstore t-shirts, one which read, memorably, “Sell Books, Not Cocaine.” Another couple who opened a new bookstore is Morgan and Lee Moore, owners of Pantego Books in Dalworthington Gardens, Tex., which opened last October, after starting as a pop-up. "We opened at a good time, just before the holidays, and though things have been a bit quieter since then, business is still going well," said Morgan Moore.

Heather Kathleen Moody Hall purchased Gray Street Books in Norman, Okla., early in 2022 and renamed it Green Feather Book company in honor of her Chikashshanompa heritage. In addition to actively promoting Indigenous literature, she has been promoting access to banned books and attracted both wanted and unwanted attention when last October gave away t-shirts to local student students with a QR code to the Brooklyn Public Library’s Books Unbanned Project.

MPIBA covers the largest territory of any regional bookselling association and several booksellers traveled long distances to the show. While there were booksellers present from as far away as Montana and West Texas, where Frontstreet Books in Alpine is the only independent bookstore in 12,000 sq.-miles., the prize for the bookseller who traveled the farthest goes to Antonia Squire, co-owner of The King’s English Bookstore in Salt Lake City, Utah, who also owns The Bookshop in Dorset, England. She co-owns the King’s English with Calvin Crosby, former executive director of the California Independent Booksellers Alliance—who introduced a breakfast panel of authors and discussed his intention to become more of an activist bookseller in the local community. “We’ve been working with Brain Food Books, which will put new books into the hands of kids that may not have access to them,” said Crosby. “This is important now, more than ever,” also referring to the widespread efforts across the U.S. to ban access to many LGBTQ and other inclusive and diverse books.

The topic of book bans was on many people’s minds, particularly as the Texas legislature is likely to vote on Senate Bill 13, which among other things, would criminalize exposing children to “harmful material,” in schools and create “school library advisory councils” tasked with ensuring “local community values are reflected in each school library catalog.” Booksellers, in particular, would be adversely affected by another proposed law, House Bill 900, which is moving through the Texas state House of Representatives. That bill would require booksellers that sold “sexually explicit” or “relevant material” to “rate” the books before selling them to schools—a rating that can then be challenged, resulting in a bookseller being barred from working with a local school district. What’s more, it requires parental consent before allowing a student to purchase a book with sexual content. At its rawest form, any sexually explicit material would be entirely barred from being purchased by school libraries.

Charley Rejsek, CEO of BookPeople in Austin and Meghan Goel, children’s book buyer, led a session with Texas booksellers interested in fighting the passage of the bills. A 2022 report from PEN America found Texas has already banned more books from school libraries in the past year than any other state.

Reflecting on the full three days of networking and activities, Christopher Green, manager of the Bookworm of Edwards in Edwards, Col.,—which recently expanded its sales floor by a third—summed it up when he said, “The great thing about MPIBA is that we’re generally so spread out from each other, and we have such a wide variety of booksellers, is that there is no feeling of competitiveness among us. It all about cooperation and supporting one another.”