At end of February, the RISE Bookselling team travelled to Cork, Ireland to attend the Irish Book Trade annual conference. Accompanied by a delegation of 10 international booksellers from the RISE Bookselling project’s support to international events, they spent two days in the small Irish town which offered cold weather, but warm people and, most importantly, passionate booksellers who discussed burning topics for the Irish bookselling trade. Read our impressions from these eventful and inspiring days.
Upon our arrival, after a quick stop at the trade show, we were welcomed by the Bookselling Ireland committee and almost immediately swept away on a bookshop tour to discover Cork through its colourful bookshop scene. After having visited both independent bookshops and chains who sold new and second-hand books, we returned to the hotel and conference venue with significantly heavier bags.
After a quick break, all conference attendants gathered again to enjoy a dinner together, listen to inspiring keynote speeches from up-and-coming Irish authors Catherine Ryan Howard, Joseph Murray and Niamh Mulvey and celebrate Amy Devereux, from The Book Centre bookshop, who won The O’Brien Press Bookseller of the Year Award 2023.
The second day of the Irish Book Trade Conference kicked off with a welcome word by the leaders of Bookselling Ireland, Publishing Ireland and the Booksellers Association. Aoife Roantree, Chair of Bookselling Ireland, took to the stage to introduce this year’s Manifesto from the Booksellers Association, which provides a detailed account of the associations’ key aims, intentions, and views in relation to the bookselling industry in Ireland today, and public policy relating to it. Among other interesting facts, we learned that in 2021, each €1 spent in an Irish bookshop generated €2.40 in the wider economy!
Next, Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers Association, shared with the delegates the latest updates on the situation of bookselling in Ireland and the UK, and we were happy to learn that the number of independent bookshops in the area is growing, and so is the association’s membership. A presentation given by Nielsen allowed our booksellers to gain better understanding of the Irish book market sales and trends in 2022 and their possible future in 2023.
Aside from gaining knowledge about the inner workings of the Irish and British book markets, our booksellers took part in breakout sessions led by experts in the field and aimed to provide practical tips applicable in any bookshop in the world – from bookseller training to stock and margin management or digital marketing.
Two discussion panels, focused on the topics of the value of books and bookshop events also provided a valuable source of inspiration, as did the closing keynote given by Claire Walsh, freediver and author of Under Water: How Holding My Breath Taught Me To Live. And after that, it was time to say goodbye to Ireland - knowing we’re leaving the conference energised, inspired and with even greater excitement for the world of bookselling.