On ABA, Amazon, and Activism, Not to Mention Indies First and Lena Dunham: A Letter From ABA’s President

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On the occasion of our 39th birthday at The King’s English we’re about to receive the best present an independent bookseller could imagine — and so are all of you. A powerful new tool from ABA and Civic Economics that I believe will resonate in the national press and in communities across the country. One that if used by us all can create a firestorm of public interest just as surely as our common interest in a book can create a bestseller. That tool is the soon-to-be released Amazon and Empty Storefronts update.

The figures it cites are frightening. And what is frightening attracts the press. It’s a tool that has the potential to create a growing clamor in legislatures, in city and county governments, in state capitols, at the DOJ, and in the public eye nationwide. Here (in brief) are national numbers that quantify the loss of sales and property taxes due to the shift of commerce from bricks-and-mortar to Amazon, and numbers for loss of storefronts and jobs due to the growth of Amazon sales for calendar years 2014 and 2015 — along with the percentage of change between the two years. 




% Change


Sales Tax Loss





Property Tax Loss





Total Tax Loss






Displaced Storefronts






Net Job Loss





And what is even more appalling than the figures themselves is the percentage of change year-over-year, evidence of the growing destruction Amazon is wreaking on local and national economies. This is potent information, alarming to all levels of government. Information you can learn to use effectively at the fall regional shows' New Localism sessions, where you can discover the range of resources in ABA’s New Localism Toolkit and engage in role-playing exercises that will help communicate this message to other independent retailers, elected officials, community members, local first organizations, and the media. And there are more opportunities at the upcoming Winter Institute in Minneapolis, where key programming on the New Localism will also be offered. Registration opened yesterday so if you’re planning to attend Wi12 register as soon as possible.

If all of this can help create a firestorm in our communities, something is budding in Indies First of equal éclat: the voice of Lena Dunham raised in support of independent bookstores (read her letter if you haven’t already)! Her voice in support of Indies First, joined to those of Sherman Alexie, Lemony Snicket, and a host of others over the past years, of booksellers and other independent retailers, and of that behemoth American Express — all raised to champion independent bookstores and independent retailers — will make waves and create a stir, raising the level of awareness of (in equal measure) our allure and our abilities. So sign up your authors. Order your books through the Indies First publisher offers. Get yourselves on the Indies First map.

All of this — authors and activism, the economy and community, books and booksellers — will come together on Small Business Saturday and the days preceding and following. The tools you need? Good books you can’t wait to sell by everyone from Ian McEwan to Margaret Atwood, Affinity Konar to Ben Winters. Wonderful authors, whether local or nationally known, who are eager to hand-sell the books of their colleagues in your stores. And hard, cold facts to pass to your governments and community, courtesy of Civic Economics and ABA. The result? An ever more prominent place on the map of community and of bookselling and an ever bigger place in readers’ hearts.

Betsy Burton
President, American Booksellers Association
The King’s English Bookshop
Salt Lake City, Utah