One for the Books: My First Winter Institute

Wi8 logo

Experienced booksellers will tell you Winter Institute 8 was great but possibly not as great as some of the earlier ones; but those who came for the first time raved about it. There’s been lots of coverage of the breakfast presentations by Daniel Pink and Malcolm Gladwell, both of whom delivered mesmerizing talks that were smart, relevant, and compelling. But for me, the real takeaway (both literally and figuratively) were the books…hundreds of titles and over 26,000 copies–some just out; some due over the next few months.

Imagine a locked room filled with ARCs…and eager conference attendees literally peering through the crack in the doors to see what they could see. Teasingly, the ARC room did not open until 2:00 pm on Saturday and everyone took note of the posted hours so that a crowd was waiting as ABA Development Officer, Mark Nichols, finally unlocked the magic doors.

Fears of outages proved unfounded as the books were piled high and there were plenty for all. Over 140 different titles were neatly arranged on long tables, with publisher signs prominently displayed nearby, resulting in an orderly binge: large tote bags provided by Norton and Little, Brown Young Readers allowed booksellers to almost manage carrying their loads…and to come back for another batch shortly thereafter. But then the talk turned to all the carefully shrouded pallets in the corner of the room– even more titles that were scheduled to be displayed at the fabulous author reception on Sunday night when all 61 authors would be on hand to sign copies.

And still more! Monday morning, small presses were featured at breakfast and 9 publishers were on stage to highlight their favorites, and so another batch of new ARCs were added to the galley room and another rush was on. Though weather reduced the crowd that evening, the authors of those galleys too were on hand at the small press reception, meaning even more to entice.

It was all too much to take in…how to choose among dozens and dozens of favorite authors? But why worry when there are hundreds of cartons and dozens of helpful ABA staff to help you ship everything back? A few more won’t hurt…

Winter Institute is rapidly becoming the event that independent booksellers rely on for education, discussion, publisher meetings, and sharing of ideas and enthusiasm and an insatiable appetite for books, and the corollary is the decreasing relevance of BEA as mentioned by many who no longer even go. Winter Institute is contained and focused and manageable. Instead of roaming around huge aisles with overwhelming displays, there are two-on-two discussions and all the key titles prominently arranged. Instead of long lines filled with rabid fans who may or may not be booksellers, there’s orderly access and good exchange about books already read by one and recommended to others.

Winter Institute has grown and established its importance because it works.