A Report on the January 2018 ABA Board Meeting

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    The American Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors met on January 20–21, 2018, in Memphis, Tennessee, just prior to the 13th Winter Institute.

    Over the course of the meeting, the Board:

    • Heard a report from ABA President Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books on his activities on behalf of the association, including:
      • Responding to member bookstore e-mails and questions on a number of topics, including publisher relations;
      • Attending the SIBA and PNBA fall trade shows. At PNBA, he helped present the ABA educational session “Maximizing Backlist”;
      • His ongoing work with the ABA Diversity Task Force, which included preparations for the task force’s in-person meeting, held at Winter Institute 13, in Memphis;
      • Attending the Miami Book Fair International with ABA CEO Oren Teicher, and participating in events;
      • His letters to the membership that appeared in BTW.
      • In addition, with Board approval, Sindelar appointed Melinda Powers of Bookshop Santa Cruz, in Santa Cruz, California, as a new member of the ABA Booksellers Advisory Council.
    • Heard a report from Mr. Teicher on his activities since the last full Board meeting, in September 2017, including:
      • An update on year-end sales in the indie channel, which saw a 2.6 percent increase over 2016, with the highest book unit sales by member bookstores in the week leading up to Christmas that had been reported since NPD/BookScan started to collect that data. Over the past five years, Teicher noted that the indie channel has seen a compound annual growth rate of 5.4 percent;
      • A report on the new ABACUS indie bookstore financial survey data, which showed positive trends in bookstore profitability and continuing improvements in gross margin, and a report on plans to present a special session on bookstore finances, based on the ABACUS results, to publishers and exhibitors at BookExpo, in conjunction with BookExpo;
      • Working with colleagues to complete preparations for the upcoming Winter Institute, which had an expected bookseller attendance of about 680 booksellers from 370 stores, including 17 ABA Provisional Members (those planning on opening a store) and 40 bookstores that have opened in the last 12 months. He noted that one-third of the booksellers coming to Wi13 were first-timers;
      • Working with representatives of Batch — the Booksellers Association’s centralized online invoice payment and data system, which has been in use in England for 15 years — to help them prepare for meeting with U.S. booksellers at the Winter Institute’s Consultation Station and for a number of meetings with U.S. publishers in January;
      • An update on ABA’s work regarding LIBRIS, as Great American Insurance Company becomes the sole underwriter for LIBRIS policies as of January 1, 2018. He noted that the change — to help ensure the long-term health of the program by strengthening the underwriting insurance company — was proceeding smoothly, with no disruptions for bookstore policyholders;
      • Working with the economic forecasting firm Civic Economics on a full update of the report on the effects on municipalities and states of the ongoing online sales growth of Amazon and its marketplace sellers.
      • An update on a fuller integration of ABFE and ABA, including the promotion of David Grogan to the position of director of ABFE, advocacy and public policy;
      • ABA’s participation in the regional trade shows, including meetings with each of the regional association’s boards.
      • Attending the Miami Book Fair International with Mr. Sindelar;
      • Conducting annual staff reviews;
      • Joining the booksellers at both Penguin Bookshop, in suburban Pittsburgh, and Interabang Books, in Dallas, to volunteer some help selling books in the holiday rush.
    • Received an update from Senior Program Officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger and Senior Strategy Officer Dan Cullen on ABA’s work leading up to Winter Institute 13.
    • Received the report of the 2017–2018 Nominating Committee, chaired by Board member Jonathon Welch of Talking Leaves Books in Buffalo, New York. The Board approved the committee’s recommendation of the following four candidates to stand for election as directors on the ABA Board:
    • Met in executive session with ABA’s general counsel, David H. Evans of the law firm Kelley Drye, via conference call.
    • Received a briefing on the status of ongoing work regarding implementing Batch in the U.S. from Fraser Tanner, Batch managing director, and its administration manager, Eileen Kelly. Mr. Tanner outlined plans to meet booksellers throughout the upcoming Winter Institute, and he discussed planned meetings with publishers following the institute in January.
    • Received a financial report from CFO Robyn DesHotel on the results for ABA’s operations and investment portfolio.
    • Met with William Jones Investment Management representative Tom MacCowatt, partner and senior equity portfolio manager, who presented a report on the association’s investment holdings.
    • Were briefed by Meg Z. Smith, membership and marketing officer, and Greg Galloway, technology director, on the ongoing work to launch a fully re-conceptualized and re-designed BookWeb.org member website.
    • Received a briefing from ABA IndieCommerce Director Phil Davies on a number of issues, including an update regarding ongoing development of a new offering from IndieCommerce, IndieLite, a lower-cost option with a less robust feature set than IndieCommerce.