June 14, 2022

EIBF joins Sharjah Booksellers Conference

Communications Advisor Jasmina Kanuric spotlights the new trends in bookselling at a two-day event 

The Sharjah international booksellers conference brought together booksellers and book sector professionals from all over the world. Taking place in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, the global bookselling community gathered for a two-day conference, filled with exciting panels, insightful keynotes, and various networking opportunities.  

The conference was held over two days, between 16 and 17 May 2022. During the opening ceremony of the inaugural International Booksellers Conference at the Sharjah Book Authority Headquarters, the participants could hear from His Excellency Ahmed Al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, and Bodour Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association.  

In her opening keynote, Bodour shared her international perspective on the resiliency of the book industry and the role robust and creative collaboration between booksellers, publishers, libraries and authors will play in driving the industry forward.  

Day 1

Panel 1: Digital, e-commerce, and social media  

During the first panel, Kuo-Yu Liang moderated a session on best practice and case studies for engaging with bookselling communities and growing sales through digital channels, including websites, social media, newsletters and e-commerce. 

The speakers included Mohamed Kandil, Molhimon Publishing and Distributions, UAE, Adedotun Eyinade, Roving Heights, Nigeria, Giorgia Russo, La Feltrinelli Internet Bookshop, Italy, and Nana Awere Damoah, Booknook, Ghana.  

In their presentations, all panelists highlighted the importance of using social media analytics for shaping their strategy, as well as maintaining a continuous engagement with audiences.  

Panel 2: Stock curation, presentation, and customer service  

The second panel of the day explored how having well curated and presented stock to maximise browsing and discovery is essential to sales. In addition, staff trained in bookselling and customer service are also key skills to generate book sales.  

Led by Simon Littlewood, international publishing consultant, the participants heard from Peter Kacmar, Ikar, Slovakia, Kenny Chan, (former) Kinokuniya Asia, Singapore, Remi Morgan, Laterna Ventures, Nigeria, and Sonia Draga, Sonia Draga Bookstores, Poland, during the panel.  

“One of the most important things, as far as running a bookstore is concerned, is ensuring you have the right product when it is needed. Many years ago, I read a report, based on a survey that looked at a set of bookstores to determine what current bestsellers were. The survey was conducted during a peak buying time and it turned out that the percentage of stock out was very high, about 60%. Stock outs represent lost sales. That resonated with me, and I decided to always try to determine what the bestsellers are or will be and then ensure we will not run out of stock too early,” highlighted Remi, explaining how to manage the risks involved with maintaining optimum inventory as a book seller.  

Closing keynote: Trends in international bookselling  

EIBF’s communications advisor Jasmina Kanuric gave a closing keynote speech during the first day of the conference. In her presentation, Jasmina highlight the global bookselling state of play, comparing bookselling sales numbers in various key markets in the period of 2019 to 2021.  

“I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to anyone to hear that the two years of pandemic have reshaped the global bookselling industry. Booksellers across the world have seen their business models changing, having to move away from traditional bookselling overnight. At the same time, consumer behaviour changed, favouring a more digital approach, which also coincides with a spike in digital sales channels and the rise of audiobook market, among others. However, in many countries, bookshops are now considered essential businesses,” said Jasmina, focusing on the pandemic period.  

However, in stark contrast to 2020, book sales data from 2021 shows that the global bookselling market is recovering from the pandemic (op. half of the surveyed markets in 2020 experienced a drop in sales by more that 10%). In 2021, in 70% of surveyed countries, the sales have increased by 5% at least. In a third of all countries, sales numbers reached +10% or more. In some cases, for example in France, end of year holidays sales broke all records, and contributed to such amazing sales numbers across the board.  

However, there are a few caveats to this. First, and probably the most important one, not all growth is equitable. While overall sales grew, physical retail in brick and mortar bookshops remained impacted by lockdowns and lower customer traffic. On the other hand, the largest growth was seen in digital sales and for streaming services.  

On discussing future development opportunities, Jasmina highlighted: “It’s important for booksellers to continue raising their digital presence and optimize their online sales channels, even with the return to more established business models. There’s also a need to build a pipeline of events, this used to be a staple in our industry, but the pandemic really disrupted that. Reviving high streets and attracting customers to city centers goes along with this – many people are still working from home regularly, so tapping into that customer segment is important.”  

You can find Jasmina’s presentation here, while the full EIBF’s 2021 bookselling report will be released in the upcoming weeks.  

Day 2 

Opening keynote: Shelf life – chronicles of a Cairo bookseller 

Nadia Wassef, writer and co-founder of Diwan Bookstore, started the activities on the second day of the conference. In her keynote address, Nadia praised the role of booksellers in communities, building on her long experience within the industry. Twenty years ago, Nadia co-founded the Diwan Bookstore in Cairo, without any previous experience. Her journey included many steep learning curves, but the Diwan bookstores are now a thriving business.  

"Bookshops are characters with changing personalities, and bookselling is a conversation,” Nadia said, encouraging everyone to continue having many conversations with their customers, community, and colleagues around the world.  

Panel 3: Working with publishers, authors, festivals and schools  

Lola Shoneyin, Ake Book Festival, Nigeria, Gaurav Shrinagesh, Penguin Random House, India, Swati Roy, Bookaroo, India, and Tina Mamulashvili, Sulakauri, Georgia, spoke about many relationships booksellers juggle to ensure their stores reach the highest potential. Moderated by Therese Nasr, from the Ingram Publishing Services, the panel explored how being at the heart of a community and a destination for knowledge, information and reading for pleasure, means booksellers are constantly building and expanding solid partnerships with publishers, authors, festivals, and schools.  

Panel 4: New business models 

Bookshops are increasingly diversifying beyond the traditional models. We are seeing bookstores now with cafes, with non-book products, and taking advantage of new services. The fourth panel of the conference explored how diversification can work in practice, looking at experiences from four countries. The speakers presented what worked and what didn’t work in their circumstances, including the role of Print on Demand for booksellers.  

The participants heard from Agne Ahi, a bookseller at Apollo bookstore chain from Estonia, Akshaya Rautaray, from Walking Book Fairs, India, Hassan Ali, Lightning Source, Sharjah, and Keith Thong, UBSM, Malaysia. From cinema partnerships to innovative book-tuk truck that bring books to children in rural areas in India, the speakers highlighted the important role of bookselling for enabling access to books and culture to all.  

The conference closed with a final keynote speech, where Nana Lohrengel, General Secretary of the Umberto and Elisabetta Mauri Foundation, presented the Italian training initiative for booksellers. The school is now also running month-long practical placements, where participants get to experience first-hand how bookselling life is in different countries in the world.  


June 14, 2022

Booksellers join the Bologna Children’s Book Fair

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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RISE Bookselling is a network programme organized by the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) and co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.

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