Booksellers & Publishers Give Winter Institute Rave Reviews

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The first annual American Booksellers Association Winter Institute concluded its two days of programming on Friday, January 27, and booksellers and publishers who attended overwhelmingly praised the event, which combined 25 educational sessions with social events and hours of networking and impromptu conversations. A total of 375 Booksellers from 44 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Bermuda attended the institute.

Bridget Rothenberger of Nomad Book House in Jackson, Michigan, said, "In a word, it was awesome" and praised all the educational sessions she participated in. "This was the first full ABA event I've attended, and my head's still swimming." Rothenberger noted that because of what she learned in the "It's in the Payroll" presentation, held on January 26, "We have realized that our payroll is completely out of whack. We were able to use [the information] and the [Excel] spreadsheets we received right away and will continue to use them."

The Winter Institute sessions were designed to present a wide range of programming for booksellers at varying levels of business experience. It featured panels from ABA's 2005 BookExpo America programming and new sessions developed in response to bookseller input collected in the association's 2006 education survey.

Vicky Uminowicz of Titcomb's Bookshop in East Sandwich, Massachusetts, commented, "The Winter Institute was one of the best conferences I've ever been to. I learned something helpful for our store from every single session I attended. In fact, when I got back I typed out several pages of notes -- there were so many good ideas, and I didn't want to lose them!"

Uminowicz noted that the store had already begun to implement some of the topics discussed at the institute. "We are starting to track customers on our POS system for the first time, we plan to work with Constant Contact for next month's newsletter, and we've been in touch with two publishers about claiming co-op.

"We are investigating a big expansion in sidelines, and we will take a wonderful list of potential vendors with us to the New York Toy Show in two weeks. We will certainly subscribe to Above the Treeline."

The institute was open to all ABA member booksellers -- owners and staff -- free of charge. In addition, the association negotiated a special rate with the Long Beach Hilton, the site of the Institute's sessions and special events, that was further subsidized by the event sponsors to make the final cost $89 per night. Sponsors of the Winter Institute were BookExpo America, Baker & Taylor, Ingram Book Group, HarperCollins, Hyperion, Penguin Young Readers Group, Perseus Books Group, Random House, Scholastic, Time Warner Book Group, and Workman.

Eric Price, executive vice president, COO, and associate publisher of Grove/Atlantic, told BTW, "It was an amazing program. What I liked most about it was the strong educational courses for booksellers, which could be presented without the distractions of [BookExpo America]." Price said he had attended sessions, and "as a publisher, I gained a lot of knowledge, both about the nuts-and-bolts of bookselling and about other resources, such as Constant Contact, that I can use." Price said he was also pleased to have had the opportunity to meet and talk with booksellers who were not owner/managers, many of them younger booksellers. "Not only are these the people out selling on the floor, but they are the future of our industry," he said.

Among the registrants were 37 booksellers who received scholarships (for hotel and travel expenses) supported by ABA or one of 11 Book Sense Publisher Partners -- Grove/Atlantic, HarperCollins, Hyperion, Penguin Group for Young Readers, Perseus, Random House, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Thomson/Peterson's, Time Warner Book Group, and Workman.

Look for in-depth coverage of the Winter Institute educational sessions in upcoming issues of BTW.