Less than half-way through the American Bookseller Association's12-city spring booksellers forum tour, which it kicked off at CAMEX last month,one theme has started to emerge-concern about the credit squeeze.

During the question and answersession with ABA COO Len Vlahos at this week's New England IndependentBooksellers Association gathering at the Universityof Southern Maine in Portland, Willow Books & Cafe presidentDavid Didriksen said, "the biggest problem I have is the relationship withpublishers' credit departments. I actually had a major publisher hold up anorder for $45."

According toVlahos, it's not just New Englanders who are feeling the pain. "There's a hueand cry from our membership," he said. "Publishers are treating everybody as anidentical risk." In response, the ABAhas set up a new subcommittee to work with publishers.

Noting thatindependents comprise 9% to 10% of the book market, Vlahos said, "our approachis to convince the publishers why they have to do better business with us." Hepoints to what happened in the music industry when bricks-and-mortar retailerscrumbled in the face of digital downloads and little was done by the industryto shore them up. Roughly 2,300 music retailers went out of business between2003 and 2008, including independents and chains like Tower and Virgin, saidVlahos. Sales continue to plummet because people have so few places to learnabout music.