The highlight of this year's Great Lakes Booksellers Association trade show—held at the new Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center in a Chicago suburb—was Saturday's Rep-Around Luncheon, with its speed-dating format. For 90 minutes, the show floor shut down, and the action moved to a banquet hall, where 24 reps moved between different tables of booksellers, pitching their favorite fall and winter releases for 10 minutes at a shot.

“It was easier to ask questions and to discuss in this format,” Betsy Schram, a co-owner of the Bookshelf in Cincinnati, Ohio, said. “It gave us the opportunity to have hands-on discussions about what's coming [that] you might not know about when you place your orders.”

“People came by our booth after lunch to talk some more. The only negative was that we only got to talk to a small fraction of the booksellers there,” Nancy Rohlen, a Perseus rep, said. Each rep spoke to six tables of six booksellers; 150 booksellers attended the Rep-Around lunch.

While fiction like Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones (Random), The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta (Holtzbrinck), The Black Book of Secrets by F.E. Higgins (Feiwel and Friends) and The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax (Harcourt) enticed booksellers, they were also jazzed about big, gorgeous books like Creature by Andrew Zuckerman (Chronicle), for all ages,Mother Goose by Scott Gustafson (Greenwich Workshop), as well as interactive, light-up, pop-up books: Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy by Matthew Reinhart (Orchard), Alive: The Living, Breathing Human Body Book (DK), and Gallop! A Scanimation Picture Book by Rufus Seder (Workman).

Although all the reps reported that business on the trade floor was brisk throughout the day, some reported low numbers of orders actually placed at the show, something that did not surprise booksellers. “I've placed most of my orders already. I come mostly for the seminars,” Liz Murphy of the Learned Owl, in Hudson, Ohio, said. “I'm having a grand time, wandering around, talking to people, because there's no pressure.” Sue Boucher of Lake Forest Books in Lake Forest, Ill., agreed, adding, “GLBA's not so much to meet authors as it is to talk to booksellers and to see Daniel Goldin [book buyer for Harry W. Schwartz Books in Milwaukee] perform at Friday's 'Buzz Books' panel.”

The trade floor exhibit area was open only on Saturday, sandwiched in between two full days of educational programming. “You develop your own taste in books, you know your taste in books,” Matt Norcross of McLean & Eakin Books in Petoskey, Mich., told PW, while discussing this year's show. “But the nuts and bolts—you can't get this information anywhere else.”

Friday's sessions, which began with the popular “Ideas that Work” gathering of brainstorming booksellers, included presentations on improving customer relations and staff development, as well as using blogs and social networking sites as Web marketing tools. Sunday's closing session, attended by about 100 booksellers, featured Matt Cunningham of Civic Economics, presenting an analysis of the impact of independent retailers on their local economies, followed by Jeff Milchen of the American Independent Business Association, presenting strategies for increasing public awareness both of the existence of local businesses and the benefits of patronizing them.

Despite appreciation for the show's spacious venue and the hotel's excellent food (once booksellers survived the horrendous Chicagoland traffic to get there), GLBA will return to Dearborn, Mich., next year, October 5-8.