September 27, 2018
Booksellers Association remains optimistic about Amazon threat in annual conference
by Julie Goldberg
“Now is the time to shout louder than ever about the contribution bookshops make to society,” stated Nic Bottomley, Booksellers Association president, as reported in The Bookseller.
At the Booksellers Association’s annual conference at Aston University this September, Bottomley along with several others noted a shift in public opinion concerning the immorality of Amazon’s business model, as well as the enduring power and importance of the traditional bookseller.
The conference came on the heels of the early September announcement that Waterstones bought Foyles’ three London bookshops as well as some shops in Bristol for an undisclosed fee. Jess Stenson (Sweet Cherry Publishing’s sales and publicity exec) stated that, despite her initial disappointment, she now believed the sale “could offer wider potential for indie presses.”
While Amazon undeniably remains a threat, the speakers at the conference decided to direct their focus towards fortifying their own community. With more than 250 booksellers from across the UK in attendance, calls for collaboration, inclusivity, and mutual support were the rally cry at the event. Meryl Halls, managing director of Booksellers Association, shared preliminary plans for a system of shop floor “swaps,” in which store owners would spend a day perusing each other’s stores in order to improve their own, fostering a sense of collaboration and generosity between booksellers.
TED Speaker Margaret Heffernan echoed this sentiment, stressing the importance of “helpfulness” as a more fruitful alternative to “outright competitiveness.” While Bottomley acknowledges that “more needs to be done to curb their [Amazon’s] behavior,” it appears that the association is urging its delegates to fight the inhumanity and ultra-competitiveness of the Amazon giant with precisely opposing principles. “Numerous studies show,” attested Heffernan, “that [helpfulness] is what distinguishes high achieving organizations from average organizations.”
Critical to developing this culture of collaboration, the organization’s speakers also emphasized, is a widespread effort to foster greater inclusivity in the bookselling world. As Bottomley put its, “we have to make sure every single member of the community can access our shops and are welcome there.”
Bottomley, Halls, and other senior members were confident that the awareness and media coverage of Amazon’s behavior will continue to expand. And, alongside increased awareness, local and indie bookshops will continue to generate a positive impact on their communities.
Julie Goldberg is an intern at Melville House.