When the American Booksellers Association announced that it had chosen Minneapolis—or the Mini-Apple—as the site for Winter Institute 12, jokes began making the rounds in the bookselling and publishing ranks about putting the winter back in Winter Institute. But given Minneapolis's ranking as America's most literate city according to the most recent survey by Central Connecticut State University, this chilly locale with a plethora of great bookstores and libraries could make an ideal setting for this year's annual postholiday gathering—ABA's biggest to date.
From the beginning, the ABA sought an intimate feel for the institute. And for the first decade, it capped attendance at 500 booksellers to maintain that intimacy. As the institute's popularity has grown, the size of the conference has begun to creep up. Last year for the first time bookseller attendance grew slightly. Now the cap has been raised again—roughly 30% above 2015, with approximately 650 booksellers expected to attend, according to senior strategy officer Dan Cullen.
"We have continued to cap the number of attendees any store can send, and we still do have a wait list," Cullen says. "We are trying to accommodate increased demand from booksellers and publishers without losing the overall character of the event."
Publisher growth has come from university presses and from the increased attendance of houses of varied sizes. This year the ABA encouraged small and midsize publishers and others with more limited marketing budgets to participate in a new feature, publisher consultation stations. Fourteen presses, including many attending for the first time, signed up to meet with booksellers from 2:15–5 p.m. on January 30.
In addition, over 110 authors of books for children and adults will appear at the institute over three days' worth of plenary sessions, featured talks, author receptions, and special events, including Scholastic's annual Meet and Treat Afterparty. Attending authors include featured keynoters, American Booksellers for Freedom of Expression director Chris Finan (Drunks: An American History), and yoga instructor Jessamyn Stanley (Every Body Yoga), who will lead a half-hour yoga session every morning at 6:45 a.m. Also check out PW's reviewers' top picks of authors to meet at the show.
"Winter Institute is continuing to become one of the most important events on the independent bookstore's annual calendar, and ABA is very happy we have been able to grow the attendance slightly, to accommodate additional booksellers and sponsoring companies," ABA CEO Oren Teicher says. "This year we will see bookseller attendees from all 50 states and a record number of 89 sponsoring publishers, bringing more than 110 authors."
As for the decision to come to Minneapolis in January, Teicher notes that both the bookselling and publishing communities of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul) are extraordinarily vibrant. "We are grateful," Teicher says, "for all the input and participation we have received from them in preparing for [the institute]. We at ABA are very much looking forward to welcoming everyone to WI 12 in just a few weeks."
Check out all our coverage of WI12: