The Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association Fall Discovery Show took place October 6-8, in Denver, the second time independent booksellers convened in the Mile High City this year. In January, the ABA’s Winter Institute was held in the city.

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Literary Trivia: Tattered Cover Book Store’s winning team (again)​.
As expected, booksellers from Denver’s Tattered Cover Bookstore were out in force, participating in the event’s literary quiz competition (the Tattered Cover’s team won, for the second year in a row).

MPIBA is notable for being the most geographically vast regional booksellers association in the country, stretching from the gulf coast of Texas to Canada, and the vast majority of booksellers flew in — making for a collegial gathering of distant relations. In all, 221 booksellers attended the event, executive director Laura Ayrey Burnett told PW, adding that the organization expanded by 15 new members this year.

 

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Backlist Blind Book Swap: Ellen Dickinson from The University of Arizona Bookstore in Tucson, Arizona with Gretchen Matsuda and Midori Matsuda from Canned Ham-Lit in Elizabeth, Colorado

Among the new members in attendance was Canned Ham-Lit, a 98 sq.-ft microstore run by Midori Matsuda and her mother out of a renovated trailer that pops up in different locations around Elizabeth, Colo.

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Backlist Blind Book Swap from left: Aaron Cance, new bookseller from The Printed Garden in Sandy, Utah; Emily Katzman from Off the Beaten Path in Steamboat Springs, Colorado; Becca Chavez from Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colorado; new bookseller Marcy Rizzi from Booked on 25th in Ogden, Utah; Heather Duncan from Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colorado

Another new bookseller in Denver was Booked on 25th in Ogden, UT, whose owner Marcy Rizzi left a career as a SWAT team negotiator to get into the book business. “I just love the energy of the book business, which is very different from that law enforcement and a lot less stressful,” said Rizzi.

Dallas Bell was at the show, ahead of opening Burrowing Owl Books in Canyon, Tex. next month “I was motivated, in part, by the closing of Hastings [Entertainment],” said Bell, whose store will be located 20 miles outside Amarillo, Tex., where Hastings had been headquartered. Hastings operated 126 stores, many of which were in the vicinity of MPIBA booksellers.

It’s likely we’re going to see several new stores open in middle-sized cities in Texas, Oklahoma, and other places where Hastings was strong,” said Valerie Koehler, American Booksellers Association board member and owner of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Tx.

Other booksellers, are still filling in gaps in the market left by the bankruptcy of Borders many years ago: Becky and Jay Jackson opened Absolutely Fiction Books in Lufkin, Tx in July. “We met at a Waldenbooks more than 30 years ago and when the Waldenbooks closed five years ago in Lufkin, people had to drive an hour-and-a-half to two hours to get to a bookstore.”

Joni Montover, who opened Paragraphs Bookstore in South Padre Island, Tx, in 2010, noted that her biggest competition remains Internet booksellers and her customers will often drive long distances for the privilege of shopping in a real bookstore.

People in our community are very, very grateful we are there,” said Montover.

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Talking books: Kelsey Myers and Susie Wilmer from Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, Colorado with Joni Montover from Paragraphs on Padre in South Padre Island, Texas

New bookstores have been opening in Colorado and MPIBA added five new member stores in the state this year, including Book Lover’s Emporium in Ft. Collins, Co. and Coyote Ridge Books in Broomfield, Colo.

Arsen Kashkashian, general manager of Boulder Bookstore, said that for established stores like his own, “things have been up and down this year,” something he blames on the election.”Unfortunately, there wasn’t a big political book buyers wanted.

So we just hope that once the election is over, we can get back to selling books again.”

(Sideline sales can help bridge the gap in slow years and the MPIBA Discovery Show added two rows of sideline vendors this year, a section that MPIBA project manager Kathy Keel dubbed “The Sideline Slide.”)

Despite the distractions of politics, the mood at the show was buoyant. Liane David Kling, a former social studies teacher, who bought Downtown Books in Craig, Colo. in 2015 and was making her first visit to the show, said it was just “wonderful” to be there and “experience the energy.”

Karen Berg, founder of the Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, Colo, said she has “never missed” the show in all the years she has been a bookseller. “I get ideas, information and support from participating. It makes me feel like a small part of something larger.”