Listen again to our first webinar from the RISE Bookselling webinar series, exploring the joys and hardships of selling children’s books in modern times.
Selling children's books: How to do it differently?
Children's book buying can sometimes be an overwhelming task with a market that is only growing bigger, more diverse and more complicated. It is understandable that buyers choose to focus on nostalgic titles they know parents and grandparents will buy, but modern children are disconnecting from these titles. Therefore, the focus on nostalgia can damage a child's love of reading if they do not see the world they recognise reflected in the books they are reading. By embracing the future and the past, and encouraging parents and grandparents to think outside of the books they are familiar with, booksellers can ensure the future of their shops and nurture a love of books in the next generation.
We welcomed Gráinne O’Brien, children's books buyer for O'Mahony's booksellers, Ireland, and Zaida Pérez Gómez, owner of children’s bookshop Liberespacio in Spain as our guest speakers. With about a decade of experience each, Gráinne and Zaida share the same passion for helping children discover the joy of reading, but also many of the same challenges in the meeting with parents, grandparents, and even an entire industry inclined towards more nostalgic book titles than what the children actually want to read.
Continue the conversation with Gráinne and Zaida on Twitter at @Gra_Obrien and @liberespacio and read more about Zadia’s campaign “Leer es una fiesta” (Reading is a Party) here.
The RISE Bookselling webinars aim to help bookshops stay up to date with the latest trends in the bookselling sector to ensure their long-term success. We want to provide you with good practices and resources and with a space to exchange ideas with other booksellers.
Three booksellers from different parts of the world accompanied EIBF team to the national conference for booksellers in France
Les Rencontres Nationales (RNL) de la Librairie is a biennial conference dedicated entirely to bookselling and booksellers organised by the Syndicat de la Librairie Française (SLF). This year the RNL took the participants to the bustling city of Angers in western France to discuss bookselling post COVID-19, sustainability solutions for the sector, and the future for the bookselling profession, among many other topics.
EIBF Director Julie Belgrado and EIBF Policy Assistant Tora Åsling were joined by Marianne Reiner, bookseller at La Playa Books in San Diego, USA, Olaf Tigchelaar, bookseller at Kramer & van Doorn in Zeist, the Netherlands, and Oana Dobosi, bookseller at La Două Bufniţe in Timisoara, Romania, in Angers for this exciting event. Keep reading to hear their impressions from these days full of new encounters and insights.
WELCOMING EVENT and BOOKSHOP CRAWL On the second day of July, as RNL attendants were arriving to a sunny and warm Angers in anticipation of the upcoming conference, ten Angevine bookshops opened up their doors to showcase their diverse offer of books, share their passion for bookselling, and taste a glass of wine from local vineyards around the Loire valley. Instead of a traditional pub crawl, the Association des librairies indédependantes en Pays de la Loire (ALIP) in partnership with the bookshops of Angers, invited RNL guests to discover Angers through an innovative and immersive “bookshop crawl”. Meeting new colleagues among the bookshelves of Angers was a delightful experience that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
DAY 1 After a small breakfast and warm welcoming by SLF, participants were thrown straight into business with presentation of several studies on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on bookshops, French people’s reading habits, and statistics from the French book market. Confronted with diminishing number of readers, booksellers could still seek comfort in the fact that the French reported a strong attachment to their local bookshops. This high esteem seems to be a reflection of why bookshops in France were considered essential during the pandemic.
Later, French minister for Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, joined the conference. “France is a country of readers,” she said and emphasised the important role bookshops hold in society. Moreover, she thanked French booksellers for their collaboration in introducing the cultural pass, which is a project aiming to motivate young people to read by providing them with a voucher charged with a sum of money to spend exclusively on cultural activities and goods, such as books.
Panel: The future of consumption RISE participant, Marianne Reiner, originally from France but now working as a bookseller in the USA, shared her insights about the daily life of American booksellers with her French colleagues. She talked about bookshops as cultural hubs, and how they can benefit more than one business, for instance by hosting author events at the coffee shop next door.
The panel also discussed the rise of digital giants, which in France are often referred to as the GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft). Coming from the US, where Amazon’s virtual monopoly of the online market is a real burden to independent booksellers, Marianne implored her French colleagues to take stock of the situation and act quickly against the threat the giant multinational platform poses to their market.
Panel: Sustainable bookselling – examples from abroad It is not an understatement to say that climate change was one of the most prioritised topics of this year’s edition of the RNL. Its importance was underlined in many panels, not the least in the panel moderated by EIBF Director Julie Belgrado on sustainability initiatives in bookselling from abroad. The roundtable explored climate initiatives in Quebec and the French speaking world, as well as in the Nordic countries.
As an example, EIBF’s Policy Assistant Tora Åsling brought up the Swedish project, “the climate intiative,” which is a cooperative project between the Swedish Booksellers association, Publishers association, online retailers and streaming services aiming to once and for all map out the environmental imprint of the entire sector. The idea is that, in the face of the current climate crisis, the book sector needs to set competition aside and fight climate change together to be able to succeed in decreasing their environmental imprint.
DAY 2 Panel: Dissemination and distribution, are there other possible models? In a panel featuring booksellers from Quebec, Germany, and the Netherlands, three different kinds of distribution systems were examined and discussed. For instance, Olaf Tigchelaar, explained how the Dutch centralised system allows for 24-hour deliveries.
Closing panel: Bookshop, “I love you, me neither…” The closing panel gathered a roundtable of experienced booksellers discussing bookselling as a profession vacillating between passion and pressure, pleasure and exhaustion, recognition and disrepute. RISE participant, Oana Dobosi explained how the love of bookselling led her to become creative during the pandemic, e.g., by inventing a new business model and selling “books to go” through her shop window, hosting story times for the young audience via zoom, and starting a website to keep her business going and connecting with customers.
And that was it! Two days filled with discussions, interactions, and learning that left many booksellers with a head full of ideas as they went back home. On behalf of RISE Bookselling, we give our warmest thanks to our bookseller guests and SLF for hosting us.
In partnership with BBPlus and RISE Bookselling, EIBF hosts a group of international booksellers at this year's BCBF 2022
European and International Booksellers Federation this year launched a partnership with the BBPlus, an international arm of the Bologna Children's Book Fair, to host a group of European booksellers at this important industry event. Building on the RISE Bookselling programme, we invited 8 booksellers to join the Fair, establish new connections across the continent and improve knowledge sharing across borders.
Meet the booksellers
We organised a two-day conference dedicated to bookselling, which took part on 21 and 22 March 2022. The group included Trish Hennessy, owner of the Halfway up the Stairs Children’s Bookshop in Ireland, Hannah Rials, bookseller at Mr B's Emporium Of Reading Delights in United Kingdom, Maren Kleppen, bookseller at Per Magnussen Bokhandel in Norway, Raluca Selejan and Oana Doboși, co-founders and managing partners of La Două Bufnițe bookshop in Romania, as well as Livia Hector, a bookseller at La Două Bufnițe. Inara Belinkaja, Managing Director of Janis Roze bookshops in Latvia and Ainars Roze, Head of the Board for Janis Roze bookshops, completed the group.
Day 1: From insights into the Italian book market to the Ragazzi Award Ceremony
During the first day at the BCBF, the booksellers attended the Opening Ceremony of the Fair, followed by conference focusing on the Italian book market. Organised by the Italian Publishers Association, in collaboration with Italian Trade Agency and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the event spotlighting how the Italian book market fared in 2021 and compared the insights with figures from 2020 and 2019. During the event, we learnt that the Italian book market experienced unprecedented growth in 2021, with print book segment growing by 16%. This trend is reflected in many European countries, as shared by the Italian Publishers Association. However, the growth is not equal across all trade channels. Online sales, including those from physical bookshops, are continuing to increase.
The booksellers also had an opportunity to meet the BBPlus Author Ambassador Michèle Roberts, and exchanged opinions on literature in translation and their experience in stocking translated literature on their bookshelves. Maren Kleppen pointed out that many people are fluent in English in Norway, with people preferring to read books in original language if they are available.
In the afternoon, the booksellers had an opportunity to join a guided tour of the Fair, led by Isabella Del Monte, Product Specialist with the Bologna Children's Book Fair. After that, they explored the many bookshops in Bologna's town centre.
The evening finished with a gala ceremony, celebrating the winners of the Ragazzi Awards. Trish Hennessy stepped into the spotlight on the stage to present the award in the comic categories.
Day 2: From the SDG book club insights to promoting reading in vulnerable settings
The Tuesday programme kicked off with a panel on the SDG book club, where Raluca Selejan spoke about her experience in highlighting SDG themes in bookshops and how to approach the 'big topics' with children and their parents.
The booksellers then joined a seminar looking at obstacles to reading across the world. The event focused on regions and communities where access to books, bookshops and libraries is challenged - a situation which has been exacerbated globally by deepening social inequalities and the pandemic.
Booksellers panel: Living with books, living with Covid
In the afternoon, within the scope of the Bologna Book Plus programme, EIBF hosted a panel exploring how booksellers across Europe are dealing with pandemic-influenced changes to the industry. Speakers included Maren Kleppen, Hannah Rials and Raluca Selejan, while the event was moderated by the EIBF director Julie Belgrado.
In a 45-minute discussion, the speakers focused on three themes: how the pandemic impacted customer behaviour, how booksellers experienced the pandemic, and what lies ahead for the sector. In a contrast between the countries, Maren and Hannah highlighted how book sales in Norway and UK went up during the pandemic, which has not been the case for Romania, as shared by Raluca. In Norway, the Government encouraged citizens to turn to bookshops for home entertainment, which was an additional boost to the sector. However, in the second year of the pandemic, Norway experienced the first lockdown, and booksellers had to be creative to keep up with customers. Social media played an important role in keeping the interaction going: "Our customers give us tips, as much as we give them tips. That's how we grow as booksellers," said Maren during the panel, who works as a bookseller at Per Magnussen Bokhandel.
While many people found their love of reading again during the pandemic, many booksellers found they have less time to keep up with all the reading they were doing before. Hannah, a bookseller at Mr B's Emporium Of Reading Delights, said that during the lockdown, when the shop was closed, the team worked from home a few days, while other days they were in the store preparing the books to be shipped to customers. While normally, they might've filled their time with reading, in this situation, they focused on finding new ways to interact with their customers, such as providing book recommendations in a new format and hosting author interviews online: "We wanted to bring a lighted focus on the interview and at some point we were asking all the authors joining our calls what is one of the weirdest items they have in their houses - the answers were quite surprising," said Hannah.
The panel also looked at the future of bookselling, especially in light of the war in Ukraine. Raluca, who is a bookseller in Romania, explained how in their bookshop, the Two Owls in Timisoara, they started curating shelves focusing on how to talk about conflict, displacement and refugees with children. "We soon realised there aren't many books on these topics in Romanian," said Raluca, highlighting an important gap in children's literature.
The panel finished with the speakers giving practical tips to aspiring booksellers: "Wear comfortable shoes and talk with your customers," was the insight shared by Hannah.
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