Yesterday afternoon’s Town Hall Forum led by ABA president Michael Tucker, president and CEO of Books Inc. in San Francisco, and v-p Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville, Ill., focused on where the organization will be five years from now, if there will be an ABA—and the lack of WiFi and women’s bathrooms at the Javits Convention Center.
As for the latter, BookExpo event director Steve Rosato promised both in coming years; the building is about to undergo a four-year make-over. In response to moving the show later in the week so that those coming from the West Coast could stay over Saturday night and see a savings on air fare, Rosato said that Reed is still confirming the Javits and will be reviewing how this year’s show went. Reed had been looking at moving to a Monday show. Some booksellers asked about building a special preview just for booksellers into the schedule. That, said Rosato, would likely require an additional day.
Rosato defended errors in times, locations, and occasionally participants in panels at BEA. He said that the directories go to press eight-weeks before the show and much changes between now and then. He threw out the possibility of doing away with print directories entirely and putting schedules in Show Daily.
The consensus from ABA leadership on the state of the bookselling organization is that its future is secure. Membership is up, albeit modestly, from 1401 to 1410, and 40 new stores opened last year. Acknowledging that booksellers have been bombarded with e-everything at the show, Tucker said that he believes that “there are a lot of things that seem like we can level the playing field, like the agency model. We curate; we bring something that no else does. I think we’re ready for e-everything.”
Nancy Olson, owner of Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, N.C., spoke for many when she said that she was “heartened” by Jack McKeown’s digital survey and asked if it could be more widely disseminated to the media to dispel the notion that bookstores are about to go out of business. McKeown himself spoke of a need to “break the psychology that the only parallel is between the music industry and the book industry.” He maintained that his data indicates that the situation is much more nuanced.
The ABA’s IndieCommerce initiative for which the board voted on Monday to spend up to $400,000 this fiscal year (ending August 31st) was also discussed. Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif., and San Francisco, called on those booksellers who haven’t gone with IndieBound to sign up now. “I really appreciate your partnering with Google. Until six months ago I was not on IndieCommerce. I think it’s important. We thought we had a good Web site. We’ll have a better site,” he said.
Making his first formal report as the new CEO, Teicher noted, “There’s been a lot said at this convention about the rate of change and what we can do about the profitability of your stores. We think we are a leaner and more nimble trade association.” He discussed global partnerships with other bookselling organizations, which has led to booksellers in the U.K. creating their own version of IndieBound.
Throughout the year, ABA has initiated a number of meetings with publishers over credit and other issues. Teicher promised that these will bear fruit in the next few months when ABA plans to test what he called “a whole new way of doing business” that will make a difference to booksellers’ bottom lines. Despite a loss of close to $2.5 million from ABA’s endowment over the past year and smaller revenue from BEA, Teicher said that much of ABA’s investment income had recovered in the first six months of 2010 and that he anticipates a break-even year. Booksellers can read the financial statements online at BookWeb.org.
In closing said Teicher, “Everybody in this room has heard often that these prevailing winds are not good for our business. This is not true. I’ve been around long enough to have heard our obituary written. Not only are independent bookstores going to survive, they’re going to thrive.”