Illinois Forum Gets Digi With It

On Tuesday, March 20, approximately 35 booksellers convened for the American Booksellers Association's fourth Booksellers Forum and Education Program of the year. The event, held in conjunction with the Great Lakes Booksellers Association (GLBA) at the Anderson's Book Fairs warehouse in Aurora, Illinois, featured ABA's education session "Participating in the Digital Revolution" and a Booksellers Forum & Strategic Planning Session, as well as a GLBA-led discussion of "Buy Local First" campaigns and news about the regional's holiday catalog.

Jim Dana's son, Joe Dana, wearing a Buy Local First

The program opened with a greeting by ABA Board member Becky Anderson, who hosted the event at Anderson's Book Fairs warehouse. Booksellers toured the warehouse and learned a little history of Anderson's family, which has been running local businesses for five generations.

GLBA Executive Director Jim Dana then welcomed attendees and talked about the regional's initiatives: a Buy Local campaign, which includes various consumer materials and "Buy Local" T-shirts for staff (available through GLBA at cost), and GLBA's subsidization of member bookstores' Holiday Catalog insertion costs.

Following Dana, at the Booksellers Forum, ABA COO Oren Teicher provided an update on the association's programs and initiatives. He also encouraged booksellers to provide input that will be used to help formulate ABA's strategic plan for the next five years.

Bridget Rothenberger of Nomad Bookhouse in Jackson, Michigan, said one topic of discussion -- what constitutes a core ABA member and the consideration of a criteria shift -- was fascinating. "We talked about that definition possibly changing," she said. "I'm somewhat passionate in my stance, but I think it's a good conversation to have."

Sue Boucher of Lake Forest Book Shop of Lake Forest, Illinois, said she, too, was interested in the back-and-forth on core membership.

Dana said the Booksellers Forum offered a "good mixture," of education and conversation. "There were some really strong discussions," he reported. "I have to say the ['Participating in the Digital Revolution'] seminar was one of the best I've seen from ABA. There were, as you might expect, people attending who were at various stages of technological proficiency. It was very persuasive about why one ought to be involved and then it showed ways to become involved."

The seminar, presented by ABA Information Director Dan Cullen, examined ways technological advances are affecting almost every aspect of business and bookselling.

Rothenberger said that she had attended "Participating in the Digital Revolution" once before, but she brought an employee to the session at GLBA because she wanted him get a comprehensive look at many of the available technologies discussed. Rothenberger said she thought "looking at the big picture in the digital age and how it relates to booksellers is important to stay at the cusp of what's happening." She also appreciated the detailed explanation of open source programming, a system whereby anyone can access a program's core code to make modifications. "For us who live in the world of books, it's nice to have it laid out."

Dunphy said that the volume of new technology was a little "scary," but the seminar reinvigorated his interest in developing a site, so he could accept online sales.

Lake Forest's Boucher said the session encouraged her to consider her technological options. "I thought about blogging," she said. "But a bigger question for us is what should we do about audio. Go to MP3s? Continue buying [audio] CDs? It's another thing we have to research."

Summing up the gathering, Dunphy told BTW it was a "very worthwhile meeting" and that he was inspired to attend next year's Winter Institute in Louisville, Kentucky. "The more exposure we have to other booksellers, the more we can learn." --Karen Schechner