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"Now is not the time to just survive but to thrive; a time to rethink how we communicate and do business with others"

Sheryl Jaeger, Vice President of the ABAA and Head of the Virtual Book Fair Development Team of the association about the upcoming Boston Virtual Book Fair and how to turn the challenges of the COVID pandemic into business opportunities.
Published on 11 Nov. 2020
Sheryl Jaeger Boston

1. Sheryl, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America is now launching its second virtual fair, this time in lieu of the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair. Can you give us a little overview of the upcoming fair?

Thanks Angelika, the Boston Virtual Book Fair (BVBF) has over 175 ABAA and ILAB exhibitors from 13 countries. There will be a little over 7,000 items for sale. There are several options for shopping the VBF – You may run to your favorite Exhibitors first or randomly browse by Booth, by Product type, by Category, by Price and of course by Keyword search. The Ticketed Preview day, benefiting the Antiquarian Booksellers' Benevolent Fund is November 12 beginning at 11 am EST. Free admission begins at 11 am EST on November 13th , with the fair ending at 7 pm EST on November 14th .

2. How do you replicate the atmosphere of a book fair in the virtual space? 

Finding a way to take the time-honored tradition of book fairs and move those “stalls and
booths” onto the Cloud is quite a task. Can we provide exhibitors and customers a way to
interact and shop as they would at an in-person fair? Can a video chat replace the in-person
contact? The simple answers are you can’t and it doesn’t.
That said, the VBF is a vehicle to bring collectors, curators and exhibitors together for the
intended purpose, albeit differently. A Zoom chat with a collector or curator isn’t the same as an in-person chat, but it’s a pretty close alternative.
Additionally, we are offering a Preview on opening day. We are also having public programs and other in-person fair events via Zoom. The "by Booth" function was designed to replicate the serendipity of walking the aisles and finding that unexpected treasure. The VBF includes “Featured” items, represented those items that would be prominently displayed in display cases at an in-person fair.
In the tradition of the Boston in-person fairs, we are offering Discovery items (items under $100) for emerging collectors. Exhibitors will add new items as items to replace sold items throughout the fair. Discovery and New Items will be flagged as such.

3. Undoubtedly everyone is eagerly waiting for physical book fairs to return, to meet
customers and colleagues and simply see the books. However, what are the advantages of a virtual fair?

As with many make-shift innovations, there are unexpected benefits — the obvious - you don’t
have to leave home, fly or pack your wares. The virtual fair also allows those prohibited by
distance and/or cost from traveling to faraway places to now exhibit at a fair to participate. It allows customers to search the entire fair, quickly by Product type, Category, Price or Keyword
for those with special interests.
An unexpected benefit I’ve heard from collectors, librarian and booksellers is the ability to get to better understand the depth of an Exhibitors inventory. Even after items are sold, they remain in the fair adding to this knowledge base.
Most importantly during “Covid time “as said before, it gives the trade a collective way to
reconnect with collectors and librarians. When the fair begins one experiences the same
excitement as an in-person fair.


4. The ABAA’s virtual fairs are developed in cooperation with Biblio, an independent
marketplace for booksellers and collectors. How does the model work? 


Our technical partner Biblio provides the platform for the VBF. The only fee for Exhibitors are
booth related fees, there are no commission. Biblio will also provide credit card processing for
those who wish for a small fee. To participate the Exhibitor must register, at no charge, on
Biblio as a dealer, as the platform is managed by Biblio. The Exhibitor completes the registration information only once and will be retained from all fairs. The Exhibitor only need to complete this process once. For subsequent VBFs, it’s one click to participate. Exhibitors may either upload or manually enter books for VBFs. Following the fair all items are removed from the fair platform. If Exhibitors sell on abaa.org or and of the biblio websites (.com, .uk, .au, .nz) those items can be transferred to those sites after the VBF.

5. Last but not least, what did you take from these unprecedented months since March in the rare book trade?

Now is not the time to just survive but to thrive; a time to rethink how we communicate and do
business with others. I recently heard a speaker (virtually of course) who told the story of an
artist who decided to explode her old garden shed, she then repurposed and rethought the uses of the shattered parts. Covid-19 is our shed and we now have the opportunity to repurpose, rethink and reframe how we run our businesses and lives. Innovation is key to our continued success.

Click here for an overview of ways to shop the VBF https://youtu.be/u8XXXXXXG0s 

Sheryl, we thank you for this interesting interview, wish you and your team at the ABAA
much success with the fair and hope to see you all in person again very soon. 

"SERENDIPITY AWAITS" - The Boston Virtual Book Fair opens on 12th November 2020 and can be accessed here: BOSTON VIRTUAL BOOK FAIR 


Sheryl Jaeger, with her partner Ralph Gallo, established Eclectibles – Fine and Unusual
Ephemera
in 1989. The business became a full-time endeavor for Sheryl in 1996. Her personal and professional mission is The Promotion and Preservation of Ephemera leading her to service on the boards of the ABAA and the Ephemera Society of America. Sheryl is currently the ABAA Vice President. She is also a member of the Appraisers Association of American and the American Antiquarian Society. As the name implies Eclectibles offerings are varied with a focus on childhood ephemera, social history, women’s history, collections and archives and just about anything that presents a new view of a story, lends a new prospective or serves as primary source material. Prior to joining the trade, she was an independent Management Consultant in operational effectiveness.

For full contact details, please visit this link. 

Interview: Angelika Elstner, ILAB

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