The Canadian Booksellers Association's annual convention, held at Toronto's Convention Center June 15-19, went by the theme "Facing the Challenges-A Practical Survival Guide." Although the challenges facing independent bookstores appear to be multiplying, survival tips were few and far between. When pressed, most booksellers linked their current problems to Canada's largest bookseller, Chapters Inc., which is still growing; to Pegasus, Canada's new wholesaler, of which the Chapters chain owns 70%; and to Internet sales.

The event, which had about 4900 registrants, kicked off with the inaugural Canadian Book Summit. The keynote address, "Books and Bytes: Feast and Famine," discussed technology and its relationship to Canada's book community. Technology expert Paul Hoffert aptly described the oil-and-water mixture of booksellers and new technology by noting that many retailers have to be pulled "kicking and screaming into the 21st century." That sentiment was affirmed by booksellers during various workshops, when many admitted they have yet to join the information age.

But some of the new technology highlighted at the summit was enough to keep the chatter going for days. The excitement over e-books was overshadowed only by Xerox's soon-to-be-released electronic page, which can hold several pages of data. Also released to much fanfare was new Xerox technology that enables digital storage of books, which can then be printed in a softcover format by simply pressing a photocopier button. Xerox representatives contend this could do away with the high cost of physical storage and vastly improve publisher-to-bookseller supply-chain efficiencies.

This year, the Canadian Library Association ran its convention simultaneously, to a positive reception. Although many publishers who would ordinarily sell to libraries applauded the idea, the CBA itself stated that only a handful of CLA members bought tickets to the convention and that it is unclear whether the experiment will be repeated next year.

Although the CBA did not have figures on previous years' attendance, it is possible this event's numbers declined because of the conspicuous absence of the Chapters delegation. Just days before the convention began, a disagreement over the entry cost was interpreted by Chapters to mean that it was not welcome-much to the dismay of many publishers. Insomniac Press publisher Michael O'Conner, for one, was irked by Chapters' absence-the chain accounts for 60%-70% of the small publishing house's overall sales. "It was a tremendous minus," O'Conner told PW.

Since 1995, Chapters had received a discounted group rate to attend the convention. This year, Chapters was told by the CBA that the same rate would apply, but two days before the show CBA informed the company that the group-rate offer had been rescinded. "It was pretty clear to Chapters that we were uninvited to the CBA," spokesperson Helena Alto explained. Although Chapters had planned to send 200 buyers and other employees to the convention, only a few from its Internet group attended, plus a couple of other staffers who were not aware of the policy change.

Much grumbling could be heard about the CBA convention itself. "As in the U.S., every year we debate whether the expense of this as a big PR exercise is worth it, because very little order-taking is done anymore-it's been transferred to the regional fairs," Susan Renouf, president of Key Porter Books told PW. Other publishers shared that sentiment. "In terms of bookstore buying power, only about 5% of the industry showed up, and even fewer were buying at the convention itself.... I think there have to be a lot of changes to make it effective. It's extremely costly for what little it achieves for a publisher, especially a small press," said O'Conner.

Even Firefly Books president Lionel Koffler, who was generally pleased with the show, lamented the absence of CBA members at their own convention. "People have been saying the convention had no future for the last 20 years, but it will always have a future-although it might be on a smaller scale," Koffler predicted.

Some booksellers are even becoming disillusioned with the CBA itself. A new group has taken on the task of coordinating independents in the fight against the big chains. Called The Independents: Your Neighborhood Booksellers, the Ottawa-based organization of eastern-Ontario independent bookstores focuses on advertising and public-awareness campaigns. "We didn't go through the CBA because we thought they were totally ineffective," said Diane Walker, who helps run the independent group's advertising and co-owns Leishmans Books. "A lot of prominent bookstores have dropped out of the CBA," she added, for similar reasons. Longtime member Bryan Prince, of Bryan Prince Booksellers Limited in Hamilton, Ontario, contended, "I just don't feel the CBA is strongly representing the needs of independents."

The Libris Awards, given at the end of the convention, also left several booksellers and publishers stumped. "I think they are always eccentric," Renouf said of the winners. Although it was no shock that Alice Munro was named the author of the year and that her book of short stories, The Love of a Good Woman, took the Fiction Book of the Year Award, small publisher Firefly Books Ltd. garnered Publisher of the Year honors, beating the new Random House of Canada and McClelland & Stewart. But the real winner of the evening was the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, which won Nonfiction Book of the Year and Specialty Book of the Year; its editor, Katherine Barber, took home the Editor of the Year Award. This led one publicist to chortle, "Must be one goddamn, kick-ass dictionary."

Despite the complaints about fast-growing chains and the misgivings about staying on top of new technology, many booksellers attended for the same reasons they do every year-to see the fall lines up close. HarperFlamingo Canada has a hot lineup for fall, including Pilgrim, a new novel by Timothy Findlay; Truth and Bright Water by Thomas King; and Dorothy L'Amour by bad girl Lynn Crosbie. Knopf Canada will release Baltimore's Mansion by Wayne Johnston and What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin. M.G. Vassanji's latest novel, Amriika, will be released by McClelland & Stewart in September. Apogee Books' Apollo 11-The NASA Mission Reports may prove to be hot for the 30th anniversary of the first moon landing. Never before has the official documentation of the voyage been available to the public.

New faces at CBA included Lobster Press, a Montreal-based firm dedicated to publishing new Canadian authors; nontraditional participants Pierre Belvedere, a gift and card line that recently acquired the Exley gift book line from the U.K.; and Rykodisc, a music wholesaler-proving that more alternative products are moving into the book industry.