21 October 08 | Chad W. Post

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog.

(There was also talk of an International Society of Young Publishers—more on that in the near future.)

Athough most of the talk at Frankfurt is about the publishers, editors, agents, and authors, it’s also a great place for booksellers to connect with each other and to find out about various resources, such as the International Congress of Young Booksellers.

The ICYB has been around for over 50 years and is an organization designed to support “young” booksellers interested in sharing ideas with other booksellers from around the world. I put “young” in quotes, since they accept anyone into the organization–those young in age, in experience, in heart . . .

One of the primary activities of the ICYB is their annual congress, which takes place at the end of May in a different country every year. Last year it was in Athens, Greece and was attended by more than 35 booksellers from 12 different countries. (Although no one from the U.S. or UK attended . . .) And At the Congress the booksellers share various ideas, present info about the book trade in their country, visit bookstores, work on projects, and have an excellent opportunity to network with other people who are passionate about books.

It’s worth mentioned that this week-long event isn’t limited to booksellers–publishers and others in the book trade are more than welcome to attend. As Miriam Feldmann stated, it’s much better to have a mix of perspectives so that people working in different parts of the industry can have a better perspective on how everything functions, and on how things could be improved.

Next year the Congress will take place in Frankfurt, and the ICYB is expecting a large group. (Past Congresses in Finland and Germany drew more than 50 booksllers.) The theme will be E-motion@l Bookselling and will be held in the German booksellers school in Frankfurt.

To Americans, the idea of “bookselling school” probably seems a bit odd, yet in Germany, you can’t become an official bookseller before completing this program, which generally takes three years, and consists of working almost 40-hour weeks at a bookstore while also taking two full days of classes. And these aren’t just classes on how to create beautiful displays–students study economics, literature, math, and more, and take two crucial exams covering the whole of the book business and their studies that they have to pass in order to graduate.

Miriam Feldmann, 25, will be graduating from bookselling school next May and has been working in a bookstore in Cologne for the past couple years. Despite the systematic professionalization of the bookselling field, her description of the bookselling scene in Germany is very reminiscent of bookselling in America: stores struggle to stay afloat, chains stores are coming to dominate the marketplace, and booksellers generally don’t make much money. But the job does come with a great deal of respect . . .

In addition to continuing to attend the Congress to find out about bookselling in other countries, Miriam’s hope is to move to the U.S. next summer to get a better sense of America’s book world.

More information about the ICYB can be found at their website, where you’ll also find an application form to attend the 2009 conference, which runs from May 24th through the 30th.


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