About the NCIBA
Our mission is “To promote the vitality, diversity and prosperity of independent bookselling as essential to the life of our communities and crucial to the dissemination of ideas in society.”
The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA) is a trade organization dedicated to supporting, nurturing and promoting independent retail bookselling in California. With over 500 members, including nearly 300 booksellers, the NCIBA has been an experienced provider of advocacy, education and services for over three decades.
Declaration of Independents
As cities, towns, and neighborhoods deal with the changing landscape of their local business community, we, the independent booksellers of California, reaffirm our commitment to our communities. Independent bookstores value our place in the community, as well as our ongoing connections within it. We’d like to offer some other defining thoughts about independent bookstores.
• Independent booksellers talk with our customers directly and enjoy fulfilling—even exceeding—their expectations, whether its recommending a great book we’ve just read, or helping you discover new or little known authors or publishers.
• Independent bookstores have an onsite owner—we’re right there answering questions and making decisions, rather than relying on a corporate office, thousands of miles away.
• Independent booksellers are leaders in the fight against censorship and other threats to freedom of expression.
• Independent bookstores reflect the character of our communities. We support local causes. We participate in and fund community activities. We patronize other local businesses and keep our money in the community.
Defining Independent Bookselling
Northern California Booksellers Association adds Independent to name
The board of directors proposes a bylaws change designed to distinguish its members from chain stores and other book-selling outlets. The vote by members is 153-7 in favor of adding Independent to the name. With the addition, the association becomes the first of its kind to identify members specifically (and proudly) as independent booksellers.
1996 Books By the Bay
The first annual Books By the Bay festival kicks off under sunny skies on San Francisco’s Embarcadero. The unique gathering, billed as “A Celebration of Independent Bookselling,” features author appearances and 30 indie bookstore stalls.
Over the course of 10 years, the annual free outdoor event drew thousands and generated consistent media attention. Books By the Bay served as an ongoing reminder of the diversity and strength of independent bookselling in the region.
1997 A Bestseller List For Us
Recognizing that The New York Times bestseller list is not representative of what was selling in our bookstores, NCIBA creates the first weekly Independent Booksellers Bestseller List, producing an 11x17 print version that stores can post. The list is the first in the country to create distinct categories for trade paperback fiction and non-fiction, underscoring their importance in terms of sales in independents and their popularity with book clubs.
Today, the NCIBA bestseller list is used by the San Francisco Chronicle as its List of Record and is published every Sunday in the paper’s Book section.
1998 The Branding of Independent Booksellers: Booksense
NCIBA launches Book Sense, a regional branding campaign for independent bookstores that is adapted nationally by ABA and eventually morphs into IndieBound. The program aims to underscore the value of indies to both publishers and consumers, and it identified five cornerstone attributes of independent booksellers - Knowledge, Passion, Personality, Character, and Commitment to Community.
Even after Book Sense became a national program under the auspices of the American Booksellers Association, NCIBA created ads that focused on indies’ ability to discover and draw attention to great titles, often before anyone else. One such ad noted that in March of 2000, Jonathan Letham’s Motherless Brooklyn won the National Book Award for Fiction - a fact that was of no surprise to independent booksellers. Why? Because in October of 1999, those same booksellers had already made Motherless Brooklyn the #1 Book Sense pick.
2006 Amazon and the “Zero Effect”
As independents seek ways to educate customers and the media about the true impact of Amazon, NCIBA creates a poster of talking points that emphasizes the positives of shopping in independent bookstores. The poster, which is ordered by more than 100 stores (including several in other regions), contrasts community benefits provided by California independents as opposed to amazon.com, using these examples:
Number of in-store author events last year.
Amount of donations to local community organizations last year.
Number of local people employed,
Sales tax collected and paid to support schools, social services, and public agencies last year.
2007 A Call to Action: Shop Local First
NCIBA becomes one of the founding members of the San Francisco Locally Owned Merchants Alliance (SFLOMA), a coalition of independent retailers whose mission is to promote locally owned independent retail businesses and to educate residents and visitors about the value of shopping at independent retailers and the positive economic impact generated for the community. NCIBA helps raise funds for and commissions an economic study by a national firm that affirms data collected in other studies - most notably that shopping at locally owned businesses provides economic reinvestment in the city at nearly 3 times the rate of spending those same dollars at chain stores or online retailers. The study also finds that a 10% shift in purchases from chains to independent merchants would net San Francisco $200 million in additional revenue and create 1,300 new jobs every year.
SFLOMA currently has more than 200 members and has represented small business interests in conversations with the city about payroll tax reform, minimum wage, and Shop Local marketing campaigns.
2014 A New Day Dawns - And It’s Our Own
Following on the success of Record Store Day, NCIBA launches California Bookstore Day, a one-day celebration of independent bookselling. The event features 93 participating California bookstores, all of which host parties and sell exclusive books and art pieces produced exclusively for the day. The result? Huge sales for bookstores - a one-day collective revenue increase of more than $150,000 - and statewide press and social media attention.
At the end of the day, California Bookstore Day succeeds in its mission of driving customers to independent bookstores to buy print books. In doing so, it underscores again the critical role of the independent bookstore.
Not surprisingly, California Bookstore Day attracted the attention and interest of indie bookstores across the country. As a result, NCIBA decided to create a national celebration in 2015. With the support of the ABA and the eight other regional bookstore associations, along with a generous financial contribution from Penguin Random House, Independent Bookstore Day was born. The event again proved a financial boon for virtually all of the 350 participating bookstores, while the press and social media covered the day’s celebrations from coast to coast. In 2016, we expect more bookstore participation, which means more parties, more sales, and more recognition of the indispensable role that independent booksellers play in the world of books.