A Report on the May 2018 ABA Board Meeting

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    The American Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors met on May 28–29, 2018, in White Plains, New York, just prior to the start of BookExpo, to address a number of issues.

    Over the course of the meeting, the Board:

    • Heard a report from ABA CEO Oren Teicher on his activities since the last full Board meeting, in January, including:

      • Executing with ABA colleagues ABA’s Winter Institute, held in Memphis, Tennessee, from January 21–25;
      • Leading in New York City a debriefing session for the Winter Institute publisher sponsors of the event;
      • Conducting with ABA colleagues 10 Spring Forum meetings, held in conjunction with the regional trade associations. At the meetings ABA presented a new educational session, “A Year of Bookstore Profitability,” and held an open discussion on association and industry issues. This was ABA’s 20th year of spring forums;
      • Participating with ABA colleagues and member booksellers in both an ABA Educational Task Force meeting, held in Chicago, and a Digital Task Force meeting, held in White Plains, New York, as well as in a conference call meeting of the ABACUS Task Force;
      • Together with ABA colleagues, working on a number of items preparing for ABA’s participation in and programming for BookExpo 2018, including Meet the Editor visits and Publicist Speed Dating, as well as a number of educational sessions;
      • Working with ABA colleagues on the sixth stand-alone Children’s Institute, to be held in New Orleans from June 19–21;
      • Overseeing the establishment of an ABA code of conduct for all association meetings and events and encouraging booksellers to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement, as the code is a work in progress. Beginning with the upcoming ABC Children’s Institute, the code of conduct will be disseminated in advance to all event attendees and prominently posted onsite.
      • Conducted together with ABA President Robert Sindelar, ABA Vice President Jamie Fiocco, and Senior Program Officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger meetings with 27 publishers to discuss issues of mutual interest;
      • Continued work with representatives of Batch — the U.K. Booksellers Association’s centralized online invoice payment and data system — which resulted in significant progress leading up to the board meeting;
      • Attending the London Book Fair, where he had a number of productive talks with senior U.S. publishing executives;
      • Together with ABA CFO Robyn DesHotel completing ABA’s financial audit and the preparation of the association’s 990 tax filing (both of which are available on the About ABA page on BookWeb.org);
      • Overseeing the hiring of the Houston-based digital media marketing company Two Cats Communications as ABA’s part-time social media coordinators, which will be developing and implementing ABA’s social media plan while tracking and reporting on audience growth and analytics;
      • Participating in approximately 100 media interviews on bookselling and the book industry since the last Board meeting;
      • Together with ABA Senior Strategy Officer Dan Cullen, meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with Ryan Raffaelli, assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School’s Organizational Behavior Unit, to discuss his ongoing research on the independent bookstore resurgence in the U.S. and the ways in which Prof. Raffaelli and ABA might work together;
      • Taking part as a featured speaker in the Book Industry Study Group’s annual meeting;
      • Representing ABA as part of a meeting of national book industry associations;
      • Overseeing the release of the “Prime Numbers” report, the latest study from ABA and Civic Economics, which documents the continuing — and increasing — loss of jobs and essential state and municipal revenue as a result of the growing retail dominance of Amazon.com. The report documents both Amazon’s sales and, for the first time, the explosive growth of sales through its third-party Marketplace from 2014 to 2016 (the most recent numbers available);
      • Together with colleagues, working closely with the producers of PBS’ The Great American Read, an eight-part television series that debuted on May 22. The series will cover America’s best-loved books and allow viewers to vote for their favorite. ABA and the producers of The Great American Read have worked to produce a range of materials to help booksellers promote the series to customers;
      • Together with colleagues, finalizing work with Literary Hub to bring professional reviews to book pages on IndieCommerce and IndieLite websites as well as IndieBound.org;
      • As part of ongoing planning and work regarding next year’s Winter Institute, set for January 22–25, 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, together with colleagues meeting with area booksellers and publishers in Albuquerque to discuss programming ideas;
      • Visiting member stores, including, in May, the Doylestown Bookshop, which was celebrating its 20th anniversary;
      • Together with ABA senior staff meeting with Robert A. Walton, the CEO of the National Association of College Stores, to further discussions on how ABA and NACS might better work together in support of their respective members.
    • Heard a report from ABA President Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books on his activities on behalf of the association, including:

      • His ongoing work with the ABA Diversity Task Force, which included a meeting at the Winter Institute in Memphis and two task force conference calls;
      • Meeting with past ABA presidents at the Winter Institute to garner their ideas and feedback regarding the association;
      • Attending the PNBA and MPIBA spring forum meetings;
      • Together with Mr. Teicher, Ms. Fiocco, and Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger conducting ABA’s annual publisher visits;
      • Continuing his outreach to and communication with the presidents of the regional trade associations and individual ABA members.
    • Welcomed newly elected Board directors Kelly Estep of Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, Kentucky, and Angela Maria Spring of Duende District Bookstore in Washington, D.C., as well as Bradley Graham of Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., who was elected to serve the unexpired period of what would have been ABA President Robert Sindelar’s term as a Board member, and re-elected Board member Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books in San Francisco, California.
    • Received a report on the series of publisher visits that Mr. Sindelar, Ms. Fiocco, Mr. Teicher, and Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger had conducted to discuss issues of mutual interest.
    • Heard a report from Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger and Mr. Cullen on the association’s 10 Spring Forum meetings, which included the educational session “A Year of Bookstore Profitability.”
    • After hearing a report from Mr. Teicher about the significant progress that has been made regarding launching Batch in the U.S., the Board unanimously approved start-up funding of up to $200,000 for the project, with the expectation that necessary staff would be hired and that Batch would launch in the U.S. in early 2019. 
    • Heard a briefing from ABA IndieCommerce Director Phil Davies on a number of issues, including an update on the recent Digital Task Force meeting and ongoing enhancements to IndieCommerce. Mr. Davies briefed the Board about the work that had facilitated a partnership with Literary Hub to bring professional reviews to book pages on IndieBound.org and IndieCommerce sites.
    • Were given an update on ABA’s financials from Ms. DesHotel.
    • Met with William Jones Investment Management representatives John Cummings, partner and senior fixed income portfolio manager, and Tom MacCowatt, partner and senior equity portfolio manager, and were briefed on the association’s investment policy and reviewed the performance of the association’s investment portfolio.
    • Heard a report via video conference call from Rick Richter and Bethany Latham, of PBS’ The Great American Read, on the very successful launch of the new eight-part television series and nationwide campaign aimed at sparking a national conversation about books and reading. (The two-hour premiere of The Great American Read aired on Tuesday, May 22, but booksellers who missed it can watch the full episode on the PBS website.)
    • Were given a full update by Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger on the programing for the upcoming Children’s Institute.
    • Heard a report from Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger and Mr. Cullen on the ongoing work in developing Wi14, and received a briefing from Mr. Cullen on the recent meetings of the ABA Educational Task Force in Chicago.
    • Over a working lunch, met with Rodney R. Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, to discuss, among other topics, the company’s research regarding retail trends and key challenges and opportunities facing independent bookstores.
    • Were briefed, on behalf of IBD, by Board member Pete Mulvihill on the fourth successful Independent Bookstore Day.
    • At the conclusion of the meeting, the 2018–2019 ABA Board convened, with new Board members Ms. Estep and Ms. Spring, and the newly elected Mr. Graham.
    • Mr. Sindelar expressed the association’s deep appreciation and thanks to outgoing Board members Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop and Jonathon Welch of Talking Leaves Books for their years of outstanding service on the Board.