The need to stress their independence and a search for fresh faces were two themes that highlighted the first of the season's regional bookseller association meetings.

Three of the four organizations that held their fall gatherings earlier this month have added the word "independent" to their name. Newly christened are the Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA), the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association (MPIBA) and the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA). Only the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) came to its gathering with it's "i" already dotted—it's been part of the group's name since its inception. MPIBA executive director Lisa Knudsen noted, "We've always been an organization for independent booksellers, but as the years went by and other organizations added "Independent," we felt we needed to underscore this to the public."

Another unifying concern among regional booksellers was where the booksellers of tomorrow will come from. "It would not be hyperbole to say we are in a death struggle to stay alive," declared ABA president Avin Domnitz during his "Know Your Customer" seminar at the NEIBA show. The hot new term is "emerging leaders," and each regional organization is searching for "booksellers under 40 who have been in the business for only a couple years and intend to stay for the next two decades." At a dinner for young booksellers during SIBA, Tammy Lynn, co-owner of Book Basket in Wetumpka, Ala., predicted that bookstores in the future will be about entertainment. Some at the dinner meeting were surprised that the event didn't discuss technology, instead focusing on the culture of the bookstore and mentoring.

MPIBA board member and Tattered Cover manager Neil Strandberg was organizing an "emerging leaders" event when he realized that at age 40, he'd just aged out of the demographic they were seeking. MPIBA encouraged new employees to attend the show by offering a free night at the hotel and one ticket to an author breakfast to any new bookseller who had never been at MPIBA. Twenty-five new booksellers accepted. "We need to light the fire in the next generation of booksellers by bringing them to the trade shows," said Knudsen.

The need to build alliances within their communities was another common theme. "That's the number one thing an independent bookstore can do," said Carla Jimenez, co-owner of Inkwood Books in Tampa, Fla. Carla Cohen of Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., agreed that working with other businesses is essential. "At the risk of boring people," she said, "you have to remind them over and over what you're doing." And after reminding the public, don't forget about alerting publishers to co-hosted events, suggested Harvey Finkel, owner of Clinton Book Shop, Clinton, N.J. "You have to let your sales reps know," said Finkel. "The more they hear about successful events, the more likely you're on their radar about future author events or tours."

Several booksellers mentioned getting resources for organizing a "Shop Local" campaign at, where fact sheets, policies and study kits can be downloaded. Many owners praised Stacy Mitchell's Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses (Beacon) as a new bible for the movement. It will be as a November Book Sense pick, which should increase its visibility.

—With reporting by Judith Rosen and Claire Kirch

New at Number 1
The top fiction seller at Advanced Marketing Services last week: Snappy Sounds Boo, the most recent in a series of pop-up books by Derek Matthews. The publisher is Templar, a British packager/publisher that has produced a number of titles, such as Snappy Sounds Vroom, for AMS's Silver Dolphin imprint. In nonfiction, 2007 Guiness World Records stayed in the lead spot, followed by rival Ripley's Believe It or Not. Landing at #1 on is Scribner's Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss. In second place: The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, originally released last fall. The $150 book is selling at for $105.83.