“I probably don’t have to tell you this has not been an easy year,” said outgoing ABA president Gayle Shanks of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., at the annual membership meeting held on Friday afternoon. She was referring not just to the struggles playing out at individual bookstores but to the organization as a whole. Over the past year,membership dropped 11%, down from 2,117 in April 2008 to 1,880 in April 2009. The ABA also saw its portfolio lose $10 million during fiscal ‘08 through April 2009.
Among the organization’s pluses, noted Avin Domnitz in his final report as CEO, the year-old IndieBound program has gained resonance with consumers despite no marketing dollars beyond the initial $500,000 spent to develop it. ABA continues to tweak its newly introduced IndieBound iPhone app, which hovers among the top three free book downloads. Currently it is working on an app for reading on the iPhone and plans to add e-book functionality to its e-commerce site early this summer. In addition, the ABA is close to a partnership to make e-book devices available for sale in member stores.
At the Town Hall Forum just prior to the annual meeting, bookseller concerns ranged from moving the show out of New York—possibly Boston and San Francisco now that it is physically smaller—to laydown dates. In competitive markets like New York City and Durham, N.C., stores jumping laydown dates has been problematic for the past two years. What is the point of having a laydown date, if it’s ignored? asked one bookseller somewhat rhetorically. Other perennial issues involved getting health insurance and e-tax fairness, with Rhode Island about to become the newest state to initiate legislation.
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