Wanda Jewell, executive director of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, gambled with the schedule of this year’s trade show, moving exhibition hours from daytime to 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Saturday evening, with an additional three hours on Sunday morning, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday was taken up with bus tours to area bookstores; Friday featured bookseller education sessions; and Saturday morning and afternoon were consumed with rep picks and author panels.
Reaction to the revised show hours was mixed. Michael Persons, a bookseller at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, Ala., was especially pleased with the free beer and canapés that were proffered by tuxedoed staff. “Who knows, if the booksellers drink enough, it might just open up their pocketbooks,” quipped Persons. Booksellers like Tom Vail, owner of Corner Bookstore in Winder, Ga., said he was perfectly content to wander the aisles at night—that is until about 8 p.m., when the 12-hour day started catching up with Vail and nearly all the other booksellers, propelling them away from the exhibit hall and up to the restaurants or their rooms.
The majority of vendors surveyed by PW remained dubious about the hours change. Don Morrison, owner of the Morrison Sales Group, said that he was so doubtful aboutthe new arrangement that he reduced the number of his exhibition tables from 14 to three. Asked on Sunday whether he made the right decision, he said, “Yes, I believe I did.” Steven Wallace, director of sales for Unbridled Books, said that he admired SIBA’s effort to try new things, but added, “This particular experiment doesn’t need to be repeated. “ A few publishers were won over. One fan was Ginger Tucker, assistant marketing manager at University of Mississippi Press, who said she was “skeptical at first, but happy with the overall traffic.” Overall, SIBA reported nearly 1,300 people attended the show, including some 579 exhibitors, 532 booksellers, 105 authors.
On Friday, SIBA presented its annual book awards. Winners included Charles Frazier for his novel Thirteen Moons and Amy Sedaris for her party guide I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. Starting next year, the awards will no longer be presented at the conference but at the Decatur Book Festival—held over Labor Day weekend in the Atlanta suburb.
Initially, administrators announced that the winners would henceforth be selected by a jury of book critics and journalists and not SIBA members. After protests from SIBA members, booksellers were also added to the panel picking winners. Daren Wang, executive director of the Decatur Book Festival, said yesterday that the exact composition of the jury was still to be determined. Finalists will continue to be nominated exclusively by SIBA booksellers.