Friday, 19 June 2015

Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) Booksellers Trade Show 2015

Bazpa display
The BIAJ Booksellers Trade Show was held downtown, Kingston on June 18, and publishers and wholesalers took advantage to make pitches to booksellers across Jamaica. The BIAJ estimates that 80% of book sales in Jamaica are related to educational materials, so the expo is in preparation for the back-to-school season which determines the profitability of a book selling businesses.

As it would be expected, the greatest portion of the day focused on books that support for the education curricula across Jamaica, especially the required and supplemental book lists of the Ministry of Education.

BIAJ board member Franklin McGibbon, who also was the chairman for the event, reminded the membership that they should be aware of developments in the ministry's policies and changes to the book lists. He said that the "Tablets in Schools" pilot programme of 2014 is an indication that in perhaps three years, many primary level schools will ask parents to buy digital tablets and the text books will be uploaded at the schools. He encouraged booksellers to adjust their business models accordingly and perhaps carry more stationery and electronic merchandise that will be used in education.

BIAJ board member Franklin McGibbon
during duties as event chairman
Customer Service practitioner Lesley Ann Harvey McDonald gave a presentation on customer service, urging stores to do in-store displays of merchandise that tell a story.

The day allowed for some excitement about local writers. Basil Dawkins' play  Hot Spot has been published in the Caribbean Writers Series and is used by secondary teachers. The book was launched in Jamaica in March 2015.

Children's writer Hazel Campbell's book Bernie and the Captain's Ghost, published by Carlong should be released as a movie next year. Ms Campbell has been described as "A prolific writer, and all of her books are very good".

The sales reps were dynamic and on-target with informed and riveting presentations, but they were not to be outdone by Sharon Martini's singing nakupende (I love you) and Yashika Lopez from Bazba telling local riddles and speaking about the biennial Nakumbuka (I remember) cultural event that was held at Mico University. These non-education presentations were also well appreciated by the audience.

I spoke about the 2015 staging of Two Seasons Talking Trees Literary Fiesta and that it will return to central Jamaica in 2016. I also pitched Young Heroes In School print and e-book versions.

Among the booksellers in attendance were Mrs Carby and the team from Carlong Publishers; other publishers were Ian Randle Publishers and LMH and Claudette Myers displayed recently updated publications of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).Among their newer titles is Jamaica's Growth Inducement Strategy In The Short and Medium Term by former Director General Dr Gladstone Hutchinson. 

Martini preparing to sing about the love of life in her books
Yashika Lopez and Letroy Monroe of Bazba distributors had a range of books representing authors who write on educational topics, novels and motivational books, and and they also had a line of t-shirts that showcased individual parishes of Jamaica. International marketers Hodder were represented by Nadia Morrison, Frank Phipps and Denise Watts Lawrence; local bookchains Kingston Bookshop, Sangsters, Bryans and Turning Pages.

Independent bookstores included Angels Books and Variety Store (outside Spanish Town); Stationery World and Book Centre (Sandringham Ave has an Internet cafe); Browns Town Books and Stationery Supplies; Grants Bookstore (Browns Town) and personalised book shoppers Kozy Korner. Independent publishers Sharon Martini of the children's Dotty Beetle Books, Levon Phillips with the guidance counselling line of resource materials were on hand. 

Publishers from Trinidad were represented by Book Wizard and Bookzone, the representatives of T&T publishers Datazone. 

The BIAJ is a 25-year old organisation that promotes literacy and educational excellence in Jamaica.