Monday, February 2, 2009

Mood at Winter Institute is "Fright-cited"

My apologies if you read a lot of book blogs. 500 booksellers just came from the American Booksellers Association "Winter Institute 4" and they've all probably got lots to say in their posts. I spent time with high-profile bloggers and at least one that prefers to be anonymous. Oy, this is like a low-rent Project Rungay piece when the authors get all excited about hanging out with Emmett.

When Avin Domnitz, retiring exec director of ABA and former co-owner of Schwartz, commands every bookseller to have a blog, lots of people listen. Hence, lots of postings on authors met, sessions attended, and two particularly bad breakfasts. The fruit tart on the other hand, despite my random survey that showed it 75% uneaten, was actually quite delicious.

Lanora (Next Chapter Bookshop), Jason (Boswell Book Company) and I (same) were in a somewhat different place from the rest of the gang. New bookstores and booksellers are rarely so high profile. Folks would ask a hundred questions and well, I had a hundred different answers. Sadly, I often had different answers to the same question.

But fright-cited really describes my mood, and in a way, it was the mood of most of the attendees. I heard several comments about how upbeat the show was. My thoughts on that were, "If you were really pessimistic about the future, both short and long term, why would you come to this?" On the hand, these folks are sophisticated enough to be thinking, "What's going to happen to books and the book business in the next few years and how can I continue to be a part of it?"

Two really great sessions really made the show. Booksellers are moving to e-catalogs and John Rubin's Edelweiss program actually makes these e-catalogs more than an attempt to save paper--it has far more functionality than the paper equivalent. For once, publishers (surely not all of them, but enough) are going to have one platform so we can do things like pull multiple catalogs up at a time and sort them by subject. Or we can look back at a set of titles and find out if a title we skipped is actually selling at other stores.

The other teriffic development was news about the ABA e-commerce web site. The new version is programmed in drupal (not drouble, as I originally wrote it), an open source program. That's really great. I don't know why and you don't need to explain it to me. I am, however, desperate for comments and some know-it-all who wishes to expound on drouble is welcome to.

When our site goes live, we'll be able to enter far more gift items, autographed books, and select bargain books that can be purchased on the site. You won't be able to search for them, and maybe we have to make that more clear on our site, but let me tell you, it was hard for us to get everything we wanted loaded by the ABA. They just had too much to do. We'll have too much to do too, but if it's important to us, we just won't do something else. Oops, no bags today--forgot to order them!

The new site is actually much faster than the old one. I had a complaint recently that a customer wanted to link to our site but it was taking five minutes to load each title. Too long! The new one takes less than four and a half minutes. No, that's a joke. One person beta testing the site said it was a thousand times faster. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Catalogs where no man or woman has gone before. Web sites that take less than five minutes to pull up a link. Pretty fright-citing!


KYBOOK said...

Drouble = Drupal.

Jay Johnson said...

i use drupal for an academic/writing/collaboration/digital narrative blog i keep, impoverished artifices. it's pretty handy with lots of open source add-ons and customizations. good functionality. even i can deal with the back-end MySQL dbase - kind of...

and booksellers with blogs? huh. next thing you know, it'll be twitter... or the facebook. ;-)

is it now official to refer to the new identities, post-HWS?

Daniel Goldin said...

I'm fixing the original post. The funny thing is that I wrote "drupal" and somebody else corrected me!