Massachusetts Forum & Education Program Earns Raves

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On March 27, approximately 30 booksellers attended an ABA Booksellers Forum and Education Program, held in conjunction with the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) in Amherst, Massachusetts. The program was held at the National Yiddish Book Center on the grounds of Hampshire College. The event featured ABA's education session "Participating in the Digital Revolution" and a Booksellers Forum & Strategic Planning Session. ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz and and ABA Education Director Len Vlahos facilitated the day's program. Also in attendance were ABA Marketing Director Jill Perlstein and NEIBA Executive Director Steve Fischer and Assistant Executive Director Nan Sorensen.

"I thought [the program] was fabulous," said Fischer. "It was a great place to have it, and all the feedback was really positive. For me, it's always good ... to see what ABA is thinking.... How the Strategic Plan has by necessity moved from advocacy to education, that's exactly in sync with NEIBA's strategic plan."

To kick off the day, Vlahos led the session "Participating in the Digital Revolution." The seminar explored phenomena such as digitization of content, social networking, and open source and print-on-demand and their effect on independent booksellers now and in the future. "It was very good," said Mark Ouillette of the Bookloft in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. "I learned a few more things that I hadn't known about selling online.... I thought it was a very good presentation." Based on information presented in the session, Ouillette noted he might try using YouTube to help market his bookstore to teens and 20-somethings.

Bill Clements of Broadside Bookshop in Northampton, Massachusetts, said the digital seminar was "very informative. It got everybody thinking about the future of the business ... the digitization of books, better use of the Internet, and what the future holds with a new generation of readers. It was helpful."

Following the education program was a "Booksellers Forum & Strategic Planning Session." Here, participants received the latest updates on the association's programs and initiatives and had an opportunity to voice concerns and to offer input on the future direction of ABA, which is currently formulating its next five-year strategic plan.

"They went over the Strategic Plan pretty thoroughly and told us how important it is that ABA get guidance from us," Clements told BTW. "It's our trade association, and we need to think about priorities. After that, it turned into a kind of Town Hall Meeting."

"We were all talking about various ways we can compete better," said Ouillette. "And we talked about the [upcoming] Harry Potter, too."

Overall, it was a very good day, said Clements. "It's always good to have people who can think outside of the box, and think about things like new media." Booksellers are so busy, he added, oftentimes "we can't really focus on that stuff." --David Grogan