A Winter Institute Preview

Josie Leavitt - February 1, 2010

I am lucky to be going to the ABA’s fifth Winter Institute this week. Wi5, as it known, promises to be several days of focused bookseller education and a chance to see old friends. While I’m not crazy about flying San Jose, California (it’s a whole day of travel from Vermont), a break from the Arctic weather will be welcome.

The timing of WI5 is good. After a crazy busy holiday season, the regular slow days of January always cause alarm, so it’s good to learn some new things, get fired up again. I am regretfully, now that the whole Macmillan, Amazon, iPad, etc, news has taken hold, not going to be there for the technology day. However, I’m glad that every participant will be given a memory stick of the session handouts (way to save the planet, ABA!) so I can read what I missed. It’s good that both Elizabeth and I will be going, so we can divide and conquer and go to as many sessions as possible.

Sessions I want to attend include:

– Graphic Novels: An Amazing Marketing Event & Opportunity for Independent Retail. Folks from Diamond Book Distributors will help us learn the graphic novel market and how to really promote graphic novels in your store. I know there is only one section of my store I’m afraid of and it’s graphic novels, so I welcome a chance to learn from experts.

– Edelweiss for Fun & Profit. I just need to learn more about the new ordering capability of this program from the folks at Above the Treeline. I have been a little daunted by it thus far, so a session devoted to it could make my life as a buyer so much easier.

– Handselling 201: Using the Digital Age to Your Advantage. I’m not even sure I understand the description, but I’m intrigued enough to go.

B- uying and Selling Non-Book and Gift Items: Let’s talk about getting products in your store with better margins. Someone from the National Association of College Stores will speak about what’s hot on college campuses, and give tips on how to choose non-book items.

This just covers Thursday — phew! Add to this mix breakfast, lunch, drinks and dinner with friends and it’s a great day.

Friday promises to be just as full with sessions on renegotiating your lease (in this economy, who wouldn’t benefit from this); and creating and maintaining a magazine section — something I’ve thought about, but wondered if it would work in my store. ABC (Association of Booksellers for Children) is presenting The Gen Z Reader: Understanding the New Reader of the Post-Electronic Age. I’m looking for inspiration with this session, as I’m despairing about customers who have become "the electronic reader," and I’m not sure what to do.

Let’s not forget one of my favorite parts of WI: Rep Speed Dating. Twice during the Institute reps will show you the highlights from their lists. All I know is I’m at table 11 for both "dates" and am dying to know what the rep picks for the season will be.

Winter Institute gives booksellers a chance to learn and get inspired for the challenges of the year ahead while strenghtening the friendships made through the year with other booksellers. Seems like a win-win if you ask me.

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