Tuesday, June 01, 2010

CBA National Conference / Libris Awards

Wow - what a phenomenal three days.

Getting a book signed by Phyllis Smallman

I've always felt that one of the fringe benefits of working in the industry I do is about the people. Interacting with customers, other booksellers, publishers and authors is something I find endlessly inspiring.

Michael Neil's BookManager session

So getting to spend several days at the Canadian Booksellers Association National Conference hanging out with the bookish drives me forward and motivates me. Bringing together fantastic people from across our industry for an intimate and dynamic three days of discussion, learning, sharing and networking is pure gold to this book nerd.And while the entire three days of this past bookish "long weekend" was great, I think that the Libris Awards ceremony, which took place Saturday night, was the perfect example of an industry coming together. Because after all we've been through, taking the time to celebrate all of the people in our industry: from those who write them, illustrate them, edit them, produce and promote them, to those who sell them -- virtually everyone who has a role in seeing great Canadian books connect meaningfully with readers.

John Torella's inspiring keynote presentation

The Libris Awards pay tribute to authors, editors, sales reps, distributors, publishers and booksellers -- and in doing so, underscore the extremely collaborative nature of the book industry and allow us to celebrate that together.

Yes digital is here, yes publishing and bookselling is undergoing a dramatic shift. But books still matter. A lot. Nomatter what format it is produced in, nomatter how it is consumed by the reader, across our industry the passion and excitement for what books bring people makes it much more than a simple commodity. Books, the stories they tell, the way they are told and the information they provide have the power to transform lives.

Shelagh Rogers, Master of Ceremonies for the CBA Libris Awards

I had the distinct pleasure and honour of getting to kick off the Libris Awards this year, as well as introducing Shelagh Rogers, host of The Next Chapter on CBC Radio One. Being the book nerd fan boy that I am, I was also thrilled for the opportunity to sit with her and CBA radio producer Jacqueline Kirk -- they were both charming, down to earth and filled with passion and a youthful enthusiasm.

Shortly after we discussed digital books and media, and Shelagh and I compared her Blackberry to my iPhone, when we couldn't remember a particular fact related to the history of bookselling in Canada that we'd been discussing, Shelagh challenged me to a "Google" search dual on our smart phone devices. We drew our "weapons" and searched.

Shelagh demonstrating her lightning-quick Blackberry fingers

Shelagh, of course, being a pro, beat me by about a second and a half. But the cool thing was, that name which was on the tip of the tongues of everyone at our table was discovered quickly and efficiently due to a small electronic device that didn't exist a decade ago. It was just one of those moments of the past, present and future coming together.

The fun at our table during dinner felt like a family reunion even though very few of the people at the table had actually met one another prior to that evening.

Based on what I saw at so many other tables the same thing was happening. Because in my mind, the awards weren't just about celebrating the nominees and the winners, but a celebration of our industry, and about folks coming together.

A shot from the stage at the CBA Libris Awards

As Shelagh and so many of my colleagues helped usher in this year's CBA Libris Award winners, I felt myself beaming a huge smile and delighted for all those who were being recognized. I was particularly excited to see the inaugural Chase Paymentech Young Bookseller of the Year Award -- considering the fine calibre of the winner and the short-listed nominees in this category gave this bookseller hope that when the older generation is ready to retire, the industry is in phenomenal hands.

Many dialogues and discussions were opened this past weekend that give me more hope, more inspiration and more drive as a bookseller than ever before. We face huge challenges, a digital tipping point and a brave new world.

Given the explosion of choice for customers, both within the reading spectrum and outside of it, high and strong competition for a person's leisure time, the roll of publishers and booksellers as curators becomes more, not less important. Focusing on the added value that are brought when you consider the important that roll allows in saving a customer precious and valuable time rather than simply on the commodity of "selling" a book, we become more important, more critical, more relevant than ever before.

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