International Booksellers Conference inspires booksellers
to build sustainable and thriving businesses
Keynote sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities empower booksellers with the tools to promote sustainability, increase sales, and enhance customer experience during two-day conference.
Sharjah, May 2, 2023
The concluding day of the International Booksellers Conference promised to be a thought-provoking and informative experience for attendees, and it delivered in droves. With two keynote sessions, a series of empowering workshops, and a chance to engage directly with the world’s biggest publishers in intimate sessions, the conference offered the ultimate insight into the sector and focused on topics that are crucial to the bookselling industry today, retail and sustainability.
The five P’s of retail
The first keynote speaker, Steve Jones, the General Manager of Books Kinokuniya UAE, presented “The Hits, Misses & Learning of 30 Years in Bookselling.” With over three decades of experience in the bookselling industry, Steve Jones shared his insights into the evolution of retail, the challenges booksellers face today and possible solutions that he has discovered through his time in the industry.
“To be successful in bookselling, there are five critical elements to consider: product, place, price, promotion, people, and an additional aspect, logistics. Booksellers have to curate high-quality books that appeal to their customers, maintain a clean and comfortable store, provide value for money, promote their business through social media and marketing, and employ knowledgeable and friendly staff who can provide expert advice to customers. What I learnt in my experience is that you are not selling a product, you are selling an experience,” Steve revealed.
By following these principles, booksellers can differentiate themselves from their competitors and create a thriving business. Steve Jones’ left the audience with a key message stressing “it’s crucial to keep in mind that bookselling is a challenging industry, but focusing on these principles can attract and retain customers and provide them with a valuable service.”
Creating a sustainable industry and reducing the impact on environment
The second keynote speaker, Fabian Paagman, the CEO of Paagman Boekhandels in the Netherlands and Co-President of the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF), which represents over 25,000 individual booksellers including brick and mortar bookshops, online bookshops, independent booksellers and chains. Paagman’s presentation had a heavy focus on sustainability, highlighting the role booksellers can play in promoting progressive innovation and the steps they can take to reduce their environmental impact.
Recently the EIBF launched the RISE Bookselling Program, which provides sector-specific training, cross-border networking, and resources to promote sustainability in bookselling. Commenting on the role “RISE” plays, Paagman said, “The industry faces challenges such as time constraints and difficulty gathering data on specific areas, making it crucial to find practical ways to innovate and ensure a sustainable future for the industry and that’s what we plan to achieve with RISE.”
Paagman highlighted the fact that the industry must work together to decrease returns and limit unrequested marketing material and packaging. Additionally, he stressed that booksellers can play a vital role in promoting progressive innovation and raising awareness among customers, and that reducing the environmental footprint of the industry is critical.
The keynote session also addressed that a great deal of the responsibility is in producers and printers and their challenges such as the market structure and the impact of returns on the industry. “Research has shown that the environmental footprint of the bookselling industry is 85% outside of the bookshop/bookseller, which highlights the need for consideration of the impact of packaging and production, traceability requirements, and overall producer responsibility. By implementing green practices and promoting sustainability, the industry can continue to serve as pillars of local communities and contribute to a well-read and developed society,” Paagman stated.
Creating an ecosystem of collaboration and knowledge sharing
In addition to the keynote sessions, the conference featured a series of workshops covering a range of topics. These workshops are designed to provide attendees with practical insights into how to improve their businesses. The 18 diverse workshops covered important topics such as data in the book industry, sustainability, customer service and building a community and were conducted by industry experts from around the world, including Vikrant Mathur and Mamdou Wanli from Nielsen Book Service, Amber Harrison from Folde Dorset, Sonia Draga from Sonia Draga Bookstores in Poland, and Gaurav Shrinagesh and Cyrus Kheradi from Penguin Random House in the USA and Southeast Asia.
The International Booksellers Conference is an annual event in its second year, organised by the Sharjah Book Authority, bringing together booksellers and industry leaders from around the world. The conference provides a platform for booksellers to share ideas, learn from industry experts, and network with their peers. The conference aims to support and promote the bookselling industry worldwide.