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Point of View


POINT OF VIEW


Stronger together: how the EIBF Conference is uniting booksellers across the globe


WORDS Jane Streeter


Our much-discussed passion for books and read- ing is all very well and good (and, of course, vital), but in the end we have to find ways of making our businesses commercially viable, be that as a small indie, a chain or a trade association. The experience of learning from each other in a conference seting is tried and tested in our individual countries; it was so gratifying to find that it was equally relevant and worthwhile on an international scale. This year’s line-up will expand on that positiv-


T


HE FIRST EUROPEAN and International Book- sellers Federation Conference took place at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year, with the purpose of bringing booksellers and their associa- tions together in order to share ideas and best prac- tice. We had the benefit of excellent facilities, with translation available—plus extremely good cater- ing—which created a very professional but informal atmosphere. Through a great variet of presentations, the outcome was a real feeling of positive global collaboration. We hope to build on that in 2017, taking the over- arching themes of The Best Thing My Bookshop Did Last Year and The Best Thing My Association Did Last Year. I am honoured to be chairing the book- seller panel, and will discuss one of the projects run by my bookshop, The Bookcase in Lowdham, Notinghamshire. It is a book award run in partner- ship with our local Education Library Service and 40 secondary schools in our region. Other bookseller presentations will include ones from France and the Faroe Islands. There will be presentations from the booksellers’ associations of Spain, Russia, Australia, Sweden and the Czech Republic, plus a special session with Susanne König, executive director of Brooklyn-based indies Powerhouse and The Powerhouse Arena, and Alain Mabanckou, the D R Congo-born author. The EIBF team has put in a huge amount of thought and care- ful planning to make this a really atractive and entic- ing conference, building on the positive feedback from last year.


Local heroes


As a small independent bookseller based in the UK, I always find it fascinating to hear how our industry performs and operates in other countries, so last year’s conference was a real source of inspiration. Apart from the content of the presentations, I felt that the opportunit to chat informally in the breaks was invaluable in shining a light on what we are all trying to achieve in our shops and through our trade associations.


it, and I hope it will lead to more opportunities to explore the possibilit of visiting each other’s shops, collaborative ideas, bookseller networking and trade association projects. Obviously within each country we have our specific challenges (see: Brexit!), but a number of the issues we face are the same: how to expand our reach, working with schools, finding ways to engage with children and families, dealing with internet competi- tion, and so on. There is the potential to learn so much on a wider scale in this kind of seting and there is a reassurance around finding imaginative ways to work together on a truly multicultural level. Taking big ideas back to a small shop is a powerful way of driving the business forward, so this conference has tangible benefits to the botom line.


The global exchange


The social aspect is also hugely important—forging friendships with fellow booksellers, both nation- ally and internationally, comes very naturally to the bookseller breed, and can lead to feasible and practi- cal business ideas.


The enthusiastic take-up of the opportunit for booksellers in the international communit to atend the American Booksellers Association Winter Insti- tute points to an appetite for this—so my hope is that this will grow into more possibilities to atend each other’s annual conferences.


I really think this mingling adds a richness and


depth to the conference experience, and there is so much to learn from our peers about what it takes to survive as a bookseller in our fast-moving retail climate. It is much easier now to share resources and ideas with our international colleagues, and while our stles and ways of working may be culturally quite different, the shared passion for our vocation binds us together. And that is very empowering. ×


Jane Streeter opened independent bookseller The Bookcase in Lowdham in 1996. She is an EIBF board member and past president of the UK and Ireland Booksellers Association


www.thebookseller.com


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