At the end of 2019, American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher will step down from his role after a decade running the U.S.'s major independent publishing organization. But before he does so, the National Book Foundation will honor his career championing indie bookstores with its lifetime achievement award, the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, at November's National Book Awards ceremony in New York.
“We are lucky enough to be at a moment where, across the nation, books are rising,” Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, said in a statement. “But this moment of essential recognition for books and booksellers would have looked very different were it not for enormous resilience shown by indies and the teams that support them, navigated steadfastly by Oren Teicher. We are honored to recognize his immense contributions, and we are grateful for where those efforts have taken us—a position from which we can joyfully look toward a continued, rich literary future.”
David Steinberger, chairman of the board of directors of the National Book Foundation, added: “Booksellers and the publishing world at large could not have hoped for a more passionate and effective advocate than they found in Oren Teicher. For three decades at the ABA, Teicher has been an absolute champion for booksellers, readers, writers, publishers, and independent bookstores across the nation, and the thriving state of bookselling reflects that work.”
The ABA, which provides information, education, business tools, programs, and advocacy for local bookstores across the country, has advocated fiercely for its constituents under Teicher in the age of Amazon. During his time with the ABA, Teicher has emphasized the importance of the shop local movement, advocated for fair and sustainable tax laws, and worked closely with store owners and others in the bookselling and publishing industries to push the importance of independent bookstores into the public consciousness.
Teicher's time with the group began in 1990, when he was named associate executive director; he has also served as its director of government affairs and the group's first COO, and founded the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. Since he took over the ABA in 2009, the number of independent bookstores in the U.S. surged from 1,651 to 2,534, with, the NBF said in its release, "ABA membership as well as store sales increasing in lock step." Teicher was also a major factor in the creation of ABA's IndieBound program, and trade shows such as Winter Institute and Children’s Institute have grown in attendance during that time.
"There are a handful of individuals that have made it possible for me to be an independent bookseller for the past 49 years," City Lights Booksellers' Paul Yamazaki said in a statement. "Oren Teicher has been one of those crucial figures. Not just for City Lights but the entire community of independent booksellers in the United States. Oren’s efforts in establishing an ecology/community that independent booksellers can survive/thrive are essential to a critical literary community. His work in countless cities, state houses and Washington DC on the behalf of writers, readers, publishers, and booksellers have been relentless and tireless for the past three decades. Oren has done all of this with a political astuteness, eloquence, and graciousness that has benefited us all. I congratulate the National Book Foundation on such a wise choice to present the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community to Oren Teicher."
The 15th annual Literarian Award will be presented to Teicher at the 70th National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on November 20, 2019, in New York. Presenting the award will be Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto, State of Wonder, Commonwealth, and, most recently, The Dutch House, among others, as well as the owner of independent bookstore Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn. Past recipients include Dr. Maya Angelou, Joan Ganz Cooney, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Terry Gross, Kyle Zimmer, the literary organization Cave Canem, Richard Robinson, and, most recently, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Doron Weber.
"I am deeply humbled and greatly honored to have been selected," Teicher told PW. "And, while I will graciously accept the award on my behalf, I know that this recognition is appropriately shared by the thousands of indie booksellers who are a part of my extended family and have given me the opportunity to work on their behalf all these years."