ABA Booksellers Forum at PNBA Spring Meeting 'Active and Well Attended'

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On Friday, March 14, over 35 people attended an ABA Booksellers Forum, held in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) Spring Show, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The PNBA Spring Show ran from March 14 - 16 and was held at the Coeur d'Alene Resort.

Overall, the weekend's trade show was a rousing success, said PNBA Executive Director Thom Chambliss. "We got rave reviews from all those in attendance," he said. "The show floor was pretty busy, and some reps told me they took between 15 and 20 orders."

Chambliss said that the ABA Booksellers Forum, which was held from 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m., "seemed active and well attended." According to attendees who spoke with BTW, the ABA's investigation into developing an electronic gift card program was a hot topic. ABA Board Member Russ Lawrence of Chapter One Bookstore in Hamilton, Montana, and ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz led the forum and a Book Sense workshop that followed.

"I thought the forum went very well," said Barbara Theroux, owner of Fact & Fiction in Missoula, Montana. "It was very upbeat."

Lynn Dixon, co-owner of Cook Inlet Book Company in Anchorage, Alaska, said that people at the forum seemed pleased with ABA's research into developing an electronic gift card. Domnitz noted that, to be able to offer a gift card, it's conceivable that booksellers might have to purchase a new card-processing machine. Nonetheless, this news did nothing to dampen attendees' enthusiasm for a gift card program, both Theroux and Dixon reported.

"There was practically a universal acceptance -- everyone just wanted to know how soon it could be done," Dixon said. "One way or another we need to be doing this. We'd look old-fashioned otherwise."

Said Theroux, "Avin asked who would pay $300 for a new machine, and I think about 95 percent said yes, if not 100 percent."

Another topic discussed at the forum was ABA's letter to Scholastic regarding the fact that the publisher's School Division is pre-selling Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix directly to consumers through Scholastic's book fairs. (For a previous article on this topic, click here.) "Avin read the letter he had written [to Scholastic], expressing the dismay of booksellers," Dixon said. (To read ABA's letter to Scholastic, click here.)

The ABA Booksellers Forum segued directly into a workshop on the Book Sense marketing program, which was held from 10:15 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. The workshop took a look at "where we've been, where we're going."

The new BookSense.com co-op program, which is currently being tested and is due to roll out to coincide with BookExpo America in May, was a topic of discussion, Dixon reported. The BookSense.com co-op program is designed to give BookSense.com members a simple way to collect exempt newsletter co-op funds for some or all of the cost of their BookSense.com Web sites. BookSense.com handles all of the paperwork for participating bookstores, and, in turn, charges bookstores 15 percent of the co-op dollars earned from the publishers. "[The co-op program] sounds wonderful," said Dixon. (For a related article, click here.)

Domnitz and Lawrence also discussed the nuts and bolts of participating in the BookSense.com program. "It was conveyed that BookSense.com is a very easy way to have a Web presence," said Fact & Fiction's Theroux.

Noted Dixon, "Reporting to the Book Sense bestseller list was really emphasized -- how simple it was to do."

In the afternoon, from 1:15 p.m. - 4:30 p.m., Domnitz conducted a "Budgeting & Monitoring Workshop" for booksellers. Attendees were given a demonstration of a series of worksheets that will allow them to integrate into their operations a system of financial controls, which will enable them to predict bookstore performance and then measure outcomes against those predictions.

"It was good to see how the spreadsheets worked together," noted Theroux.

Following the financial workshop, Domnitz met with booksellers who had already submitted their financial data to the ABACUS survey or had brought the data with them to the meeting, to preview data gathered since ABA reintroduced the study last year. "People there realized that it was important to participate and report to ABACUS," Theroux noted.