In Los Angeles they say location is everything, and this axiom certainly rang true as publishers and booksellers enjoyed being on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif. for the 2012 Southern California Independent Booksellers Association trade show and author feast on Saturday, October 20.
“It’s cool, being on the Queen Mary,” John Evans of Diesel Books told PW, “and the energy here is good. I like the layout of the trade show because there’s a lot of room between the [exhibitor] tables. I think the booksellers are really getting a kick out of being here.” The entire bookselling community, small though it may be in Southern California, was out in force for the event and the atmosphere was simultaneously focused and festive. Attendees took advantage of strolling the gleaming hardwood decks of the fabled ship and the impressively restored Art Deco interiors and vintage decorative art.
ABA’s CEO Oren Teicher was on hand to present the last Kobo e-book program seminar of the year. The meeting room was full, and Teicher’s presentation seemed reassuring to the booksellers. A representative from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art bookstore explained that because most of the shop’s customers are LACMA members and receive a 10% discount on purchases, selling Kobo’s digital devices at a 5% margin could not be justified. “Maybe it is worth it to stock the Kobo display regardless,” Teicher countered, “if it means keeping your customers from buying e-books on Amazon. We think it’s smarter to keep those customers that you might otherwise lose.” Another bookseller was concerned about what to do if a Kobo device breaks. “Kobo’s customer service is excellent,” said Teicher. “And since it began manufacturing reading devices, Kobo’s failure rate has been less than a half-percent.” He reminded the group, too, that the devices are returnable and sold with a one-year warranty.
Most SCIBA booksellers expressed optimism about ABA’s e-book program, which goes live on November 1, and will be ordering the Kobo displays this week. “We have to stay relevant,” Skylight Books’ Kerry Slattery said. “We’ve committed to 20 each of the Kobo Glo and Mini.” Diesel’s Evans is in favor of the program and looks forward to hand-selling the Kobo devices. “This will concretely put e-books inside our stores, and start the conversation about why customers should buy them through the indies.”
Ed Conklin of Chaucer’s Bookstore in Santa Barbara was one of the dissenting voices. “Why should we push our customers in the direction toward digital if our niche market is print books?” he said. “We stand to lose more than we gain because this is not our business model. Chaucer’s has been adapting to change in the book business for years, but if you promote e-reading there will be a shrinkage of print sales.”
The authors lunch offered a particularly strong roster of speakers, with a lively moderator in Jennifer Worick (Things To Punch in the Face, Prospect Park). Adam Gidwitz (In a Glass Grimmly, Dutton) gave a re-telling of the classic fairy tale “Cinderella” as Grimm actually wrote it, gore and all. He was followed by Amity Gage, author of the forthcoming Schroder: A Novel (Twelve, Feb. 2013), which seems an indie favorite already; and Matthew Reinhart (Star Wars: A Galactic Pop-Up Adventure, Orchard), who described how he created the elaborate, complex pop-up, which took about ten months to complete. When novelist Attica Locke (The Cutting Season, Harper) was introduced the audience laughed when she remarked, “My daughter loves Matthew’s books. In fact, the other day she said, ‘You should write a pop-up book, Mom!” Daniel Handler, who represents Lemony Snicket, concluded the program and humorously discussed his new book, “Who Could That Be at This Hour,” (Little, Brown), which releases this week.
SCIBA executive director Jennifer Bigelow said that total number of booksellers at the show was up 5%, with three new indies attending, and exhibitor numbers were “exactly flat” compared to 2011. About 20 publishers and independent reps exhibited at the three-hour trade show portion of the daylong gathering. The event was open to librarians and teachers, who crowded the booths.
The authors feast was well-attended, with Penguin rep Tom Benton and SCIBA president Mary Williams sharing emcee duties. Jared Diamond (The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies, Viking) gave the keynote address. Winners of this year’s SCIBA Book Awards are A People’s Guide to Los Angeles by Laura Pulido, University of California Press, Nonfiction; Kings of Cool by Don Winslow, Simon & Schuster, T. Jefferson Park Book Award for Mystery &Thrillers; The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar, FSG, Fiction; Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck from Scholastic, Children’s Novel; I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, Candlewick, Children’s Picture Book; and the winner of the Glenn Goldman Award for Art & Architecture was Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art 1945-1980 by R. Peabody, A Perchuk,, G. Phillips, R. Singh (Getty Publications).