Friday, July 20, 2012

The Future? -- A Report from the 2012 ICRS

If you are reading this blog you are either a published author or want to be a published author. In either case, we should all be concerned about the future of the publishing industry and the fate of “brick and mortar” book stores. What is going on out there in the world of the average book buyer?
I recently attended the International Christian Retail Show, a fancy name for the biggest Christian publishing/music/gift show of the the year. I went as an “industry professional”, the category reserved for authors. Most of the attendees are book store owners or book store buyers in the retail industry. The vendors present want to showcase their upcoming releases in all types of media. But, the author can get a lot out of the show. My goal was to measure the pulse of the publishing/book store industry. What do I as an author have to look forward to? Where should I concentrate my marketing focus? Do book stores still value personal author visits?
  1. The Emerging Technology of “Instant Meeting” type software allows stores to have authors on site in a virtual visit. These simple tools were demonstrated by the Christian Author Network. An author can appear at one or several stores using current versions of “virtual meeting” type software. The author can answer live questions, give a powerpoint presentation, or give a live demonstration of how to use the book. The potential for this is wide open. An author doesn’t necessarily have to travel around the country to make appearances. BUT, the key is to get this technology, much of which is free, into the hands of the book stores.
  2. E Books have NOT killed the Christian book store. “he brick-and-mortar store is still the best option for book discovery and sales, according to Curtis Riskey, CBA executive director. He said physical stores increasingly are offering a sense of place and engagement that online stores are unable to fully provide.” according to a release by the CBA. In the opening ceremony presentations, the CBA had this to say about the future of ebooks in the hands of Christian book store buyes. “he Barna Group, summarized findings from CBA-commissioned research that revealed Christians are embracing computer tablets and e-readers at a faster pace than most consumers. Some 44% of pastors, 30% of Christian-store shoppers, and 25% of practicing Catholics reported they own a mobile tablet device or e-reader, compared to 18% of non Christian-store shoppers. The most-owned device reported was the iPad (44% among Christian-store shoppers). Additionally, nearly 70% of Christian-store shoppers said they would definitely or probably buy an e-book or digital download from a Christian store.” And, more than 800 stores can now sell ebooks through their own software.
  3. “New research presented at the show also showed that while Christians are shifting to new e-reader technologies, they also continue to be very supportive of Christian stores.” At the member luncheon the emphasis was on moving Christian retail outlets to become more engaged in their community. “People care about stores that care about what people think is important.” was one statement made. To this end, the last week of September, first week of October will be designated “Christian Store Month” and the emphasis will be on collecting funds for hungry children. By engaging the community in these type of projects, the store will bring in people for these events and enhance sells.
  4. This statement I think summarizes the current thinking: “The brick-and-mortar store is still the best option for book discovery and sales, according to Curtis Riskey, CBA executive director. He said physical stores increasingly are offering a sense of place and engagement that online stores are unable to fully provide.
I had many close encounters with other authors far more famous than I. I met Charles Martin, Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee, Os Guiness, just to name a few. One day, I hope I can be a part of a book signing at ICRS. Our own Martha Rogers was there signing books and bouncing around the show floor like the Energizer Bunny.
My next book mock up on the shelf at the Charisma Booth:

All in all, it was an exhaustive, overwhelming, but ultimately encouraging show. I am less worried about the future of Christian brick and mortar book stores and the fate of publishing (sorry, they now preferred to be called “content providers”) in the era of upheaval and change. Now, if the secular book stores would just follow suit!
My picture with Os Guiness:


Beth Shriver said...

Thanks for sharing the experience at ICRS for those of us who couldn't make it down. Are you going to the ACFW conference this year?

Bruce Hennigan said...

Unfortunately, I will not be there and I hate it. I committed to go to Hutchmoot 2012 with my son. That's a writer's conference with the Rabbit Room in Nashville the same week.
I did talk to the people at ACFW's booth and they told me to come to ACFW instead but only 100 attendees can get into Hutcmoot and it sold out in the first 5 minutes and I and my son were blessed to be one of the 100 so we're going.

Beth Shriver said...

Well, you can't do it all and time with your son is valuable time well spent. I hope you two have a great time and those of us who are going to ACFW will fill you in:)