Nine non-Irish booksellers attended the Irish Book Trade Conference in Cork, Ireland, this past February 27-28, thanks to RISE Bookselling, a program coordinated by the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF)–”aimed at upscaling, reinforcing, and maximising the capacity and resilience of the European bookselling sector.” Bookselling Ireland and Publishing Ireland, supported by the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland, provided a day-and-a-half of programming, including a bookstore tour, keynotes, education sessions, panel discussions, networking opportunities, and, for the first time, an exhibit floor, for the more than 80 Irish booksellers and publishers who attended the show at the Clayton Hotel in Cork City. They were joined by two booksellers from Norway, two booksellers from New Zealand, one French bookseller, and four American booksellers, including myself.

The RISE booksellers joined Hazel Broadfoot, Alan Staton, and Meryl Halls from the Booksellers Association (BA), along with members of the Bookselling Ireland Committee for a meet-and-greet session at the start of the conference on Monday afternoon. The warm welcome continued on the tradeshow floor, with a four-hour exhibition featuring Irish and international publishers, non-book suppliers, and industry service providers. Irish booksellers and publishing professionals were overjoyed to see each other again in person after the lockdown that occurred in Ireland during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Irish books

There was a clear preference for books by Irish authors, about or set in Ireland, and published in Irish throughout the conference. Many of the Ireland-based publishers have their books available for wholesale in the U.S., thanks to distributors like Gardners and Casemate. Cork-based sideline vendors, such as Badly Made Books, whose cards and notebooks feature photography of Ireland’s stunning landscapes and are printed on recycled paper, are or will be available for wholesale orders to America via Faire. While there wasn’t an official galley room, and totes and books were offered at many publisher tables, an overflowing galley table was stationed in the main reception room.

The pride in Irish literature was also front-and-center during the bookshop tour of Cork City, when conference attendees visited Dubray, Eason, Vibes & Scribes, and Waterstones. While each store had its own personality, they all had something in common: at least one, if not multiple, sections and displays dedicated to Irish literature and books about Ireland that went beyond a single shelf of “local interest” titles.

Conference sessions included a keynote debate on the value of books, and an analysis by Nielsen of Irish consumer market sales and trends. Fiction, especially literary fiction, science fiction and fantasy, romance and sagas, and graphic novels are up, with record sales for the Irish print book market. Most nonfiction categories are down with the notable exception of memoirs thanks to bestsellers like Spare. A “Bookshop Events: Back on the Road” panel and a state of the union address by Bookselling Ireland, Publishing Ireland, and the BA, revealed there has been a 3-5% increase in overall membership and in independent bookstore locations in 2023, with 111 indie businesses operating 138 locations in the Republic of Ireland and 18 indie bookstores/locations in Northern Ireland. Bookselling Ireland provided a printed “Manifesto from the Booksellers Association 2023,” which included a detailed report on the state of bookselling in general and the specific initiatives the BA is working on.

Best-practices advice

Educational sessions offered practical, best-practices advice for booksellers. And among the wellness activities was the closing, inspirational session by Claire Walsh, author of Under Water (Gill Books). She was the first person to represent Ireland at the Freediving World Championships and led conference attendees in a series of breathing exercises.

Looking ahead, you can see there are additional opportunities for independent booksellers in America and around the world to attend each other’s bookselling conferences through RISE initiatives. For more information about RISE Bookselling and its programs, visit

BrocheAroe Fabian is the owner of River Dog Book Co. in Oconomowic, Wisconsin.