The independent bookselling industry is growing again, according to a recent article published by NPR. Independent booksellers have had a tough time the last several decades, as corporate conglomerates, giant online warehouses and the rise of ebooks have taken their toll on the industry. However, the American Bookseller Association is stating that their membership numbers are on the rise, and have been for the last four years.
The organization, which prides itself on being the main trade association for independent booksellers, is about to gather for BookExpo America. This annual convention will take place May 30 through June 1 at the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center in New York City. In the days leading up to the convention, CEO Oren Teicher announced that membership numbers have increased significantly since the financial crisis and recession several years ago. Today, there are 1,632 members, and many of those members operate multiple bookstore locations. In 2009, there were only 1,401 members in the organization. Teicher attributed the rise in numbers to the “Buy Local” movement that is sweeping the country as well as the fact that Borders closed down.
Technology may factor in as well to the growing number of independent booksellers across the country. Teicher notes that many independent store owners are becoming more comfortable with modern inventory systems, allowing them to compete better with larger corporations. At the same time, it is easy for small business owners to promote themselves using social media. Local book stores can utilize Facebook, Twitter and many other social networking tools to help market their business and increase their presence in the community.
Independent booksellers do need to accept the fact that ebooks are here to stay, but the explosion in the ebook market has slowed down a bit. For the most part, ebook sales will continue to increase slightly each year, but they will not overpower the market as they have in the past several years. It’s important for independent sellers to find niche publications that are not likely to be produced as an ebook. Some books, such as art books and coffee table books, simply will not translate onto an iPad or Kindle. Independent book store owners also can offer their customers unique finds and books from local authors in order to stand out in this competitive market.
BookExpo America is a gathering of thousands of independent booksellers, publishers, agents, librarians, writers and book lovers. This year’s convention will feature several key note speakers, including author Veronica Roth, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and novelist Helen Fielding, who wrote “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” In addition to the key note speakers, there are several programs for participants to choose from each day, including break out sessions about the ebook market and day-long seminars about technology in the industry. Ultimately, the conference provides an opportunity for those involved in the publishing industry and those who are passionate about books to get together and work toward a common cause.