When any event excludes more than it can accommodate then much more is lost than just chance encounters and in-person ambience

The 8th American Booksellers Association Children’s Institute went digital this year (July 15-16) as the pandemic continued to disrupt the publishing industry, pulling in a record audience of over 400 booksellers from 266 stores, compared to just 330 booksellers from 230 stores at the 2019 in person event (itself a record). Over 50% of booksellers and of stores were first-time participants this year.

American Booksellers Association CEO Allison Hill explained:

We all miss being together physically, but there were also significant benefits to meeting virtually, not the least of which was the lower barrier of entry in terms of travel, time away from the store, and cost. We had many booksellers attend who had never had the opportunity to attend CI or WI previously.

Per Publishers Weekly (PW),

The conference featured a main track of sessions along with breakout spaces for smaller groups and chat functions for ongoing dialogue between attendees. As questions and comments streamed through from booksellers, the chat function had an effect of leveling the often-varied knowledge sets that booksellers bring to educational sessions.

PW added,

The format was also helpful for industry professionals who are planning to host their own digital events in the months ahead.

Read much more about the event over at PW.

Here to step back and look at the bigger picture for global publishing.

The ABA Children’s Institute event is a niche-audience meet-up that traditionally has taken place face-to-face requiring participants be able to afford, and spare time, to be at a specific venue with all the travel, accommodation and other costs associated with attending a conference.

There’s no denying the magic of in-person meets, of course. Chance introductions and exchanges, after-event socials and the sheer ambience of like-minded people gathered together with a common-purpose…

But when any event excludes more than it can accommodate then much more is lost than just chance encounters and in-person ambience.

For those disenfranchised because the costs were too high, the travel too arduous, the timing not right, or myriad other reasons why would-be attendees are not able to participate in events like this, digital provides an elegant solution that can shrink the world and enable unparalleled reach and engagement, within countries and across continents.

A hybrid future where we get the best of both world is one more example of a silver lining to the pandemic cloud.