As members of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance gathered in Greenville, SC last Friday morning for the organization's annual membership meeting, it was in an atmosphere where realism demanded that huge challenges be faced. The economic turmoil has been tough on independent businesses in general and bookstores in particular. And the economic difficulties faced by the member bookstores were mirrored, in a way, by the health challenges faced by SIBA's invaluable Executive Director, Wanda Jewell. Yet, just as Wanda was there, presiding over a complex and rewarding convention, so were scores of booksellers, determined to continue their mission of connecting books with readers, despite the economic environment.
The workshops I attended during Friday's "Day of Education" proposed new ways of accomplishing traditional tasks. Whether the topic was social media or author events, the key word was "relationship." While they are certainly no substitute for in person, "real world" interaction, social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter (and blogs!) provide new ways for booksellers to make contact with new customers and continue to interact with those whose business and friendship we already value. And in-store author events are the result of -- and the impetus for -- relationships going in two directions: with authors and publishers on the one hand, and members of the local community attending the events on the other.
The publisher exhibits -- the heart of any SIBA convention -- opened on Saturday and here, too, it was a process of reaffirming present relationships and connections, and establishing new ones. Whether it was greeting old friends or meeting those who offered products and services I was not previously familiar with, relationships form a starting point for helping Accent on Books provide an even better experience for our customers than we already do.
Of course, for all of us, in the end, it's all about the books. More on that in my next post.