While independent booksellers are still grappling with the news that Baker & Taylor is exiting the wholesale distribution of books to retailers, more and more publishers and wholesale companies have continued to step in with special programs designed to support indies, including direct sales programs and stock replenishment initiatives.
In its May 1 announcement, B&T said the decision reflected a shift in the company’s business operations to align with the education focus of parent company Follett Corporation, which serves more than 90,000 schools and school libraries in the U.S., Canada, and internationally.
Immediately following Baker & Taylor’s announcement, ABA CEO Oren Teicher addressed the news in a May 6 email to American Booksellers Association bookstore members that described ABA efforts to support bookstores.
“I can assure you that all of us at ABA understand the serious ramifications of B&T’s decision. We remain committed to working as closely as possible with all industry partners to find a path forward, as well as doing whatever we can directly at ABA to mitigate this situation,” Teicher wrote. “ABA has spoken to dozens of publishers since B&T’s announcement, and, while each company is independently responding to this news differently, it is clear that our publishing colleagues understand the magnitude of what’s happened.”
As Teicher said, several publishers and wholesale distribution companies — including Ingram, Penguin Random House, Hachette, IPG, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster — have announced an array of initiatives to support independent bookstores that are former B&T customers, now that one of the industry’s two major national wholesalers will no longer be servicing the trade. Teicher noted that some of these publishers and wholesalers are exploring ways to establish more direct accounts, while others are focused on increasing stock levels at their own distribution facilities as well as at Ingram.
Publishers and wholesalers announcing initiatives in support of indie bookstores can e-mail ABA Senior Program Officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger with their information. Details of every offer announced by a publisher or wholesale distribution company since May 1 have been added to a special page in the Book Buyer’s Handbook on BookWeb.org; the details of any forthcoming offer will be added to this list as ABA is made aware of them.
In an update provided for Bookselling This Week, Shawn Everson, Ingram’s Chief Commercial Officer for Ingram Content Group, said that going forward, Ingram would continue to focus “on making sure indies get set up with what they need so their business is not negatively impacted by the B&T news while also working to evaluate what’s in stock to meet indie order needs and continue to evaluate the best ways to provide rapid fulfillment to independent booksellers.”
“We are working hard with both ABA leadership and indie customers to really listen and understand what is needed to ensure the indie market continues to be strong and grow,” said Everson. “While the immediate focus has been on getting accounts established easily and seamlessly, we are now turning our attention to making sure we have what indies need in stock — especially as we look to the crucial fall and holiday seasons.”
Everson noted that Ingram has established many new accounts last week alone —74 percent more than the usual rate, and that most accounts are established and fully operational within 24 hours. In addition, the number of participants in Ingram’s Booklove program, designed to help indies sell more books and earn higher discounts, continues to show strong growth. Since the B&T news broke, Ingram has also executed a “soft launch” of its new Stock Check app, which will enable booksellers scan a book’s barcode with a smartphone to see whether it’s in stock; a more formal launch will happen closer to BookExpo.
In the days since B&T’s announcement, ABA leadership has also spoken to New Jersey-based wholesaler Bookazine, which is exploring ways to expand their operations, as well as to several other entities looking at filling the void left by B&T.
Also, because stores using B&T’s My Books & More e-commerce platform will need to arrange for a new provider before June 30, ABA’s IndieCommerce team has reached out to all of those stores with a special introductory offer to switch to ABA’s IndieLite program. Stores interested in switching from My Books & More to IndieLite are encouraged to contact the IndieCommerce team.
ABA members who have questions or concerns during this time are encouraged to reach out to their Member Relationship Manager at ABA and/or to Teicher directly. The Member Relationship Manager for the MPIBA, NCIBA, PNBA, SCIBA, and SIBA regions is Daniel O’Brien, and the Member Relationship Manager for the GLIBA, MIBA, NAIBA, and NEIBA regions is Liz Roberts.