Monday, April 09, 2007

Third Spring Book Show Blossoms

More aggressive advertising and a partnership with the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance helped boost bookseller attendance 18%, to approximately 650, at the third annual Spring Book Show, held March 23–25 in Atlanta. SBS director Larry May said he was encouraged that the new initiatives had helped lift the turnout this year.

The most dramatic change was the addition of educational seminars, held in conjunction with SIBA. "I primarily came to the show to attend the SIBA education panels," said Elizabeth Grant-Gibson, co-owner of Windows a Bookshop in Monroe, La., "but after perusing what was offered on the show floor, I decided to spend about $2,000 on books from AMS and Daedalus Books. We don't carry remainders, but I thought I'd get my feet wet. I'll definitely be back next year."

Joining independent booksellers on the floor were buyers from the national chain stores. Joey Middendorf, used product manager from Hastings Entertainment, said, "I did just as much business there, if not more, as I did in CIROBE. I had more time—I think the selection was a little better, and the vendors had exactly what I was looking for. I was charged with looking for bargain software and DVDs, and it was nice to see some of those there as well."

There were 130 exhibitors at this year's SBS. Buyers from both indies and chains were noticeable around the Advanced Marketing Services booth, which appeared to be having a fire sale of titles from AMS imprints not acquired by Baker & Taylor. John Weber, a buyer for remaninder dealer US Media Partners, was struck by some other fallout from the demise of AMS—a number of former distribution clients of PGW were at SBS. "Maybe some small and mid-size publishers are finally catching on to the idea that you can recoup 60%–80% of the manufacturing cost of your unsold books by selling hurts and remainders—something the majors understand very well," Weber said.

Perhaps as a result of SBS's Southern location, Christian vendors reported strong sales. Barry Baird, executive director of Bargain Books at Thomas Nelson, said, "This show was bigger in terms of orders and dollar amounts than this past CIROBE, and CIROBE was good. We've been going to the Spring Book Show since it started, and this was the best one yet."

Baird indicated that some of his top customers this year were not "mom-and-pop" bookstores, but rather nontraditional outlets. He said that general retailers, such as the bargain clothing store chain Ross Dress for Less and City Trends, a chain with 300 stores that cater to the African-American urban market, have been purchasing larger and larger quantities of books.

In addition to the educational panels, SBS held a two-day writing conference concurrent with the trade show. While about 70 aspiring writers attended the conference, some vendors complained that the competing events caused slow periods on the floor.

One of the busiest people at the show was Larry May, whose company L.B. May and Associates recently purchased Nashville's five-year-old Onboard Remainder Book Show. May was signing up vendors and attendees for the revamped, as-yet-unnamed event, which last year drew only 100 attendees. May had already registered more than 200 attendees and sold 300 tables for this year's show, set for August 10–12 at the Georgia World Congress Center, the same venue as the Spring Book Show.

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