Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA) members unanimously voted to dissolve the bookselling organization on September 27, the first day of the nonprofit’s final Fall Trade Show. After that vote, members returned for one more day packed with programming, rep picks, and lively show floor conversation at the Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel Hotel—the membership looking forward to a day when California booksellers may unite into a single organization.
Despite the bad news, SCIBA executive director Andrea Vuleta called 2019 “one of the best attended shows we’ve had in years" and counted six new bookstores in the region this year. “I applaud the broad consensus they developed,” said American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher, who served as an impartial observer during the dissolution vote. “I can tell you from my years of being in this business that we are always stronger when we are together,” he said of efforts to unite booksellers in California.
News of the SCIBA’s board’s Dissolution Resolution broke suddenly last week, as the organization explored a potential combination with the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA), California’s other bookselling organization. While SCIBA was not insolvent, its board members realized that the audit and legal costs associated with the potential of uniting with NCIBA would most likely break the organization’s slim budget margins. “I’m sure that all the regionals, at some level, are coping with this,” Vuleta said, who took over as executive director in 2012. “But because we are a smaller region, we are uniquely dependent on publisher support,” she said.
The next few weeks will be crucial for the formation of a new bookselling organization, referred to with the working title “One California” at the trade show. NCIBA changed its bylaws two months ago to allow member booksellers from around the state to join the organization, paving the way for a single unified group. The NCIBA board will meet on October 8, a moment when SCIBA members could fill one executive committee position and two voting spots on the NCIBA board. “It is a step forward and expedited a process we were doing anyway,” said Calvin Crosby. “But it’s still like losing a friend. We just said goodbye to a good friend.”
The transition committee met with members formally and informally throughout SCIBA’s final show. “For the last couple years, the given wisdom has been that we’re not going to have the same level of publisher support,” said Adrian Newell, a member of the transition committee and operations manager at Warwick's in La Jolla. “And that, along with the holiday catalogue, is what funds all of our programming for the rest of the year. So the power of combining into One California is that we can have a really robust show that publishers can and will support.”
The SCIBA Book Awards luncheon climaxed with the final book awards. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh won the Fiction Award; Wild LA by The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County won the Nonfiction Award; The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O'Meara won the Biography Award, Water by Kenton Nelson won the Glenn Goldman Award for Art, Architecture, and Photography; and The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem won the T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award.
The expo floor opened from 3-5 PM on the final day of the show. The most coveted galleys of the show included Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh, Your House Will Pay by southern California native and adult breakfast guest Steph Cha, and the updated The Joy of Cooking that hits shelves in November.
Ingram publishing rep Andrea Tetrick took a moment to thank SCIBA members in the Sheraton ballroom, her tone capturing the mixture of sorrow and hope that permeated the weekend. “What an honor and privilege to be speaking to you,” she said. “It is a bittersweet day, but it is so good to see you. What you do to create community and pass along knowledge is completely vital. Remember that in your darkest days.”