After several years of sizable, budget-busting investments in Book Sense and other programs, the American Booksellers Association has kept its expenses down, balanced its budget and—thanks to gains in the stock market—projects a surplus of about $400,000. In other good fiscal news, the association's net assets rose 13.2%, to $43.5 million, much of it attributable to gains on its investments, which totaled nearly $4 million as of March 31 and for the most part have been locked in since then.
All these solid numbers do not include potential gains from the sale of the ABA's Tarrytown, N.Y., headquarters, which is scheduled to close June 15. The association will retain space at the site for at least two years, until the board and staff decide where and how big its headquarters should be. Speaking of the move, CEO Avin Mark Domnitz commented: "I believe the board made a great decision when it bought the property [in 1991], and I believe it made a great decision to sell the property."
In other news from the ABA's town and annual meetings at BEA, membership continued to decline, although this year at a lesser rate than in the past few years, by 5.5%, to 1,804. Overall membership, which includes associate, provisional and auxiliary members, dropped 5.5%, to 2,498. In a positive note for the future, the provisional category—consisting of prospective booksellers—rose 32.2%, to 119.
Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla., was elected president and Suzanne Staubach of UConn Co-op, Storrs, Conn., was elected v-p/secretary. Also winning three-year terms: Carla Jimenez of Inkwood Books, Tampa, Fla.; Cathy Langer of the Tattered Cover, Denver, Colo.; and Linda Ramsdell of the Galaxy Bookstore, Hardwick, Vt.
A sense-of-the-meeting vote at the town meeting demonstrated overwhelming support for the ABA to figure out how to provide aggregated point-of-sale information to publishers. Several publisher employees who act as liaisons for independent bookstores in their houses emphasized to the group the importance of POS data from chains and other bookselling channels in making myriad decisions, including reprints. Indies, the only significant sales channel without POS information, suffer as a result.
Nancy Olson of Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh, N.C., complained about an increased amount of damaged shipment from suppliers. A show of hands indicated that many other booksellers have had similar problems. Recounting the many problems that occur with shipments from publishers and wholesalers, Domnitz recommended that she and other booksellers with such problems document them with the ABA.
Several speakers reiterated booksellers' satisfaction with the ABA's programming and other activities geared to booksellers at BEA this year. Among elements of this:
Thursday's educational sessions, which attracted more than 400 booksellers. Peggy Bieber, owner of Little Professor Book Center in Aberdeen, S.D., spoke about one of the many sessions, saying, "The marketing session with Jay Levinson and Seth Godin was excellent. The last half hour they came up with 30 ideas in 30 minutes on ways to market your bookstore."
The highly popular Book Sense 76 and "What Are You Reading?" luncheons, where hundreds of booksellers talked with Book Sense Book of the Year nominees and discussed titles they are enjoying reading.
The Booksellers Hotel, which continued last year's popular "Hotel California" and featured nightly pillow drops, "one-stop" registration and nightly parties on the top floor. At next year's BEA in New York City, some 420 rooms at the Park Central Hotel will be set aside for booksellers.
Prospective booksellers school, which drew 84 people, more than ever.
Last but not least, the ABA celebrated Book Sense's fifth birthday in a variety of ways, including the singing of "happy birthday" and a cake cutting at the Ingram booth on Saturday at 5 p.m.