SHARJAH (WAM), 2nd May 2023 — The International Booksellers Conference gathered industry professionals from around the globe to discuss and share their experiences.
Booksellers shared their concerns, including those relating to supply chain issues, online dominance and marketing challenges. They also brainstormed solutions.
Porter Anderson, Editor in Chief of Publishing Perspectives, provided insights into how our industry can be even more connected.
He continued, “Contrary of some confusion, publishing and booksellers are closer together in the modern age, in part because ecommerce allows them to work so closely and in time. A sale can be transmitted immediately to a book publisher, who can then use P.O.D. (print on request) to supply the title.
Seong Oh, the founder and shop manager of Graphic Novel Cafe, Auckland, New Zealand and committee director of Overload, New Zealand Comic and Manga Convention faces challenges due to supply-chain issues. The biggest problem we are facing at the moment is our supply chain. Seong said that it was getting harder to obtain our books, and the delivery time is very long.
He believes that finding suppliers who are more competitive and negotiating lower import and transport costs via local logistical service providers could be solutions.
Sonia Draga addressed the issue of the online dominance of the book industry. She is the Vice-President of Federation of European Publishers, President of the Polish Chamber of Books and the Founder and CEO of Sonia Draga Publishing House, Poland.
Sonia commented on this, saying, “During this pandemic many people turned to corporate suppliers to buy books, and unfortunately a large number of these customers didn’t return to support their independent bookstore or distributor.” Sonia believes booksellers must understand their market and find ways invigorate their community to overcome this problem.
Frederico Lang is the Key Account Manager at Libreria Luces, a Spanish bookshop in Malaga. He believes that reading and books are alive and thriving. He does see challenges to maintaining the paradigm of consumerism where “more for little” is better over time.
Fredrico explained that “another challenge is the ability to adapt and collaborate within the industry so that our industry does not become consumed by corporate giants.”
Ahmad Al Kilani is the Director of Ashtar Publishing House, Canada, and a regular conference attendee. He noted that sessions, meetings and workshops provided diverse experiences and solutions for distribution challenges. He said that the use of social media for promoting products and services was effective at reaching certain groups.
He explained that these platforms are being used more and more to promote books, which increases the reach of the target audience.
Hassan Al Salman is the Distribution Manager of Safahat Publishing and Distribution, in Saudi Arabia. He highlighted the fact that the conference offered fresh insights and expertise about book marketing.
He said that one of his key takeaways was “the realization that every book has a target audience and there are websites and platforms for it to be promoted in a specific way.” If a distributor is unable to find a market at a certain time for a particular book, they should look into alternative marketing avenues in order to reach the right audience.
Fouad Yakoub is a Syrian publisher and director of Dar Safahat, a publishing and distribution company that operates in Syria, Sweden and other European countries. He uses digital platforms to distribute Arabic-language books, and has called on the fight against piracy to increase the distribution of books from the region.
Fouad stressed the importance of conferences such as this one, saying that “the conference is crucial in motivating distributors in realising their role in the development of the regional and global publication system.” The main challenge for foreign distributors is finding new audiences. In contrast, Arab publishers and distributors face a different set of problems including a weak demand for books and high shipping costs.
He said that addressing these challenges can help Arab publishers and distributors to focus their priorities and flourish.