Working to level the playing field for independent publishers, as well as for self-publishers and hybrid publishers, was one of the big topics at the IBPA's Publishing University held April 7-8 in Portland, Ore.

In kicking off the official start of the conference, Brooke Warner, of the hybrid publisher She Writes Press and SparkPress, argued that there is no reason that publishers using nontraditional business models should be excluded from taking part in industry organizations. Warner also said titles from nontraditional publisher should be welcomed into contests, and reviewed in publications.

Warner claimed that the traditional rules of publishing are fading and, as the industry continues to undergo a period of change, nontraditional presses are publishing important work. These presses, she continued, deserve to be given the same consideration as traditional publishers. Warner said that while much of the stigma of self-publishing has evaporated, more can be done to ensure that nontraditional publishers adhere to the highest industry standards. To that end, different committees at IBPA were working on several programs to achieve this objective.

Peter Goodman, IBPA chair and president of Stone Bridge Press, called for an industry summit to explore ways to improve the retail book-buying environment for consumers, and make it more fair for nontraditional publishers. He envisioned a model that would depend heavily on print-on-demand and an improved device similar to the Espresso Book Machine that he believes would allow customers to buy the books they want, not just the books available on a store's shelves. He noted that bricks and mortars often exclude titles from nontraditional publishers.

Goodman acknowledged that his new bookselling paradigm would be a major undertaking, but maintained that "in financial and environmental terms, the physical retail model of ship-and-return is simply not sustainable."

This year's edition of Publishing University was a sellout, but about 25 of the 275 registrants did not make it to Portland due to poor travel conditions. Among those unable to get to the show was consultant Jane Friedman, who was scheduled to deliver the keynote address. (Warner filled in for her).

This year's conference also featured the 29th edition of the Benjamin Franklin Awards. IBPA received about 1,400 submissions and handed out prizes in over 50 categories. Among the many heartfelt acceptance speeches was that of Joseph Jenkins, author and publisher of The Slate Roof Bible, Third Edition: Everything You Need to Know about the World's Finest Roof. The book took first prize in the reference category. "I am pretty sure I am the only roofer here tonight," said Jenkins, who has been writing and publishing for more than two decades. He said that winning the award was one of he highlights of his life.