Just over three years after Winter Institute attendees last met in Baltimore in January 2020, the American Booksellers Association is finally able to resume its annual potpourri of programming, networking, and ARCs in person Monday–Thursday, February 20–23 in Seattle. More than 1,400 booksellers, publishers, vendors, and authors are expected to descend upon the Emerald City after two years of virtual shows made necessary by the pandemic. This year’s conference is the largest in Winter Institute’s history, and most of the programming will take place at the Seattle Convention Center.

The ABA traditionally injects Winter Institute programming with at least one panel related to the host city, and this year is no exception. WI18’s programming kicks off on Tuesday with a breakfast keynote taking aim at Seattle’s largest private employer: “Chokepoints, Antitrust, Amazon, and You: How Corporate Monopolies Are Squeezing Bookstores and How You Can Fight Back.” The presentation features three prominent anti-Amazon crusaders: Danny Caine, co-owner of the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kans., and author of How to Resist Amazon and Why shares the stage with anti-monopoly activist and author Cory Doctorow (Chokepoint Capitalism) and Stacy Mitchell, co-executive director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and, according to the New York Times, the “strategist of the demise of Amazon as we know it.”

Though ABA programming emphasizes the business of bookselling, fun is on the agenda, too. Dinners, parties, and receptions abound.

Indie bookselling’s counterattack against Amazon will continue the next day, when Andy Hunter of Bookshop.org and Phillip Davies, ABA director of e-commerce/indie commerce, will engage in a conversation entitled, “How Indie Bookstores Can Fight Back Against Amazon and Increase Sales by 500%.”

A spike in censorship efforts this past year at libraries and bookstores across the country will also be addressed during WI18. “Book Banning: Stores, Authors, and Communities: What Can We Do?” features Maia Kobabe, whose graphic memoir, Gender Queer, has the dubious distinction of being the most challenged book in the U.S. in 2022. Kobabe talks with Heather Hall, owner of the Green Feather Book Company in Norman, Okla.; Laura DeLaney, co-owner of Rediscovered Bookshop and Once and Future Books in Boise and Caldwell, Idaho; and Kendrick Washington, policy advocacy director of the Seattle ACLU.

Though ABA programming emphasizes the business of bookselling, fun is on the agenda, too. Dinners, parties, and receptions abound, and a Poetry Theater—reprising last year’s virtual Snow Days sensation—will show video loops of poets reciting their poems.

Winter Institute was launched at the Long Beach Hilton Hotel in Long Beach, Calif., in 2006 to augment the now-retired BookExpo’s educational programming, but the gathering also gives booksellers opportunities to meet authors. They’re eager to make discoveries, just as they famously did in Long Beach, when Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants blew away the 360 booksellers from 200 stores in attendance and subsequently became a bestseller propelled by those indies.

More than 130 featured authors and illustrators are on the WI18 lineup. A dozen Indies Introduce debut authors are among the scores of voices, including one emerging children’s book author who needs no introduction: Ani DiFranco. The singer-songwriter—whose picture book, The Knowing, illustrated by Julia Mathew, will publish in March—closes out WI18 on Thursday afternoon by engaging with Record Store Day cofounder Carrie Colliton and Robert Sindelar of Seattle’s Third Place Books in a keynote entitled, “The Power of Independent Artists and Independent Retail Spaces.”

Read more from our Winter Institute Preview:

Wi2023: Adult Authors to Meet
Scores of novelists and nonfiction writers are among the 130 authors writing in almost every genre known to booksellers who are appearing at WI18.

Wi2023: Colson Whitehead Revisits 1980s New York City
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Colson Whitehead resurrects 1980s New York City in the second volume in his trilogy about a small-time criminal.

Wi2023: Gail Tsukiyama Goes to Hollywood
Novelist Gail Tsukiyama shines a spotlight on the life of Anna Mae Wong, one of the first Asian-American actors to achieve success in 1920s-era Hollywood.

Wi2023: Children’s Authors & Illustrators to Meet
Scores of children's authors and illustrators are attending WI18, promoting books ranging from picture books to MG and YA reads to graphic novels.

Wi2023: Nicole Chung Reckons with the Here and Now
Nicole Chung discusses the impact of the pandemic upon the writing process, and how it shaped a memoir about her relationship with her terminally ill mother.

Wi2023: Jarrett J. Krosoczka Sheds New Light on His First Memoir
Jarrett J. Krosoczka, the author of 'Hey, Kiddo', explains how a 100-page chapter in an early draft of that graphic memoir led to the writing of a second graphic memoir, 'Sunshine' (Graphix, Apr.).

Wi2023: ABA CEO Allison Hill Welcomes the Book World to Seattle
ABA CEO Allison Hill shares with PW her excitement over the first in-person Winter Institute over which she is presiding and what booksellers can expect.

Wi2023: ABA Education Director Kim Hooyboer Pulls Back the Curtain
ABA education director Kim Hooyboer brings PW behind the scenes in Winter Institute planning, including the organization's commitment to DEI initiatives.

Wi2023: Activist Michelle MiJung Kim Sounds an Alarm Against Complacency
The social justice activist Michelle MiJung Kim argues that people must walk their talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion in order to effect real change that will last.

Wi2023: Songsmith Ani DiFranco Composes a Picture Book
Ani DiFranco says that she had to 'get her Pablo Neruda on' and switch mental gears to move from writing songs to crafting a children's picture book.

Wi2023: Independent Publishers Will Soon Swarm Seattle
Members of the Independent Publishers Caucus, an indie press trade association, will gather in Seattle later this month for the American Booksellers Association’s first in-person Winter Institute since 2020.

Wi2023: A Tour of Seattle Bookstores
This year's American Booksellers will open on February 20 in Seattle with a range of bookstore tours introducing booksellers to an assortment of the city’s independent shops.