A Letter From ABA’s CEO on the Regional Trade Shows and More

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Every fall, my empathy for Willy Loman and our sales rep colleagues increases! That’s because, along with my ABA colleagues, I hit the road for almost two months’ traveling to the fall regional association trade shows. As in the past, the American Booksellers Association was present at all nine of the regional shows this fall, and offered educational sessions at each. In addition, as part of our ongoing cooperation with the Small Business Administration, ABA worked with SBA to present special sessions at all nine shows on relevant SBA initiatives, with a special emphasis on access to capital.

All that adds up to lot of miles and a lot of activity — but, very importantly to us, the regional shows remain a great opportunity for the face-to-face conversations with members that help make sure ABA is plugged into what’s important to you and that we are hearing your thoughts, feedback, concerns, and suggestions. This year, in addition, we were offering a free trial membership to nonmember bookstores, so that they could sample ABA services (including the Winter Institute) until January 31, 2012. As a result of that successful offer, I think we had conversations at the shows with many more nonmembers, and — even if they decided not to take us up on the free trial offer — we were very grateful for the chance to hear about their stores’ successes and challenges.

All of us at the shows felt as if we had more conversations this year with members at the ABA booth — so thank you for coming by! From Providence, Rhode Island, to Portland, Oregon, it was clear that these are still very challenging economic times and there is no shortage of creativity and innovation among indie booksellers.

Discussions and programming at the trade shows proved that the children’s book segment remains one of the most lively and vibrant in bookselling. One of the sessions ABA presented was “Introducing the ABC Group at ABA,” which examined relevant data from the Bowker/PubTrack survey and talked about how booksellers can use ABA member benefits to better market their stores to increase sales. ABA is committed to supporting the ABC Children’s Group, and we were very pleased to share the news with booksellers at the shows that Shannon O’Connor — a former teacher and children’s book buyer at The Doylestown Bookshop in Pennsylvania, had joined ABA in the newly created position of ABC Children’s Group Manager. (You can reach Shannon at shannon@bookweb.org, and follow her on Twitter as well!)

We were pleased that our two Member Relationship Managers (MRM’s) — Kaitlin Pitcher (kaitlin@bookweb.org) for NAIBA, NCIBA, NEIBA, and SCIBA and Nathan Halter (nathan@bookweb.org) for GLIBA, MIBA, MPIBA, PNBA, and SIBA — were able to attend several of the shows and that they had the chance to meet many of you in person. Whenever you need anything from ABA, please, do reach out to Kaitlin or Nathan. It’s their job to get you an answer as soon as they can!

Again and again, in educational sessions and in off-the-trade-floor conversations, we heard one good idea after another — from new ways that bookstores and libraries are working together to great programs for teen readers and creative ideas for marketing e-books. We talk a lot these days about publishers formulating new business models, but it’s important, too, for the industry not to forget that innovative indie booksellers are continuing to re-invent their businesses to maintain growth and continue to offer their unique services to readers and book buyers.

The questions we fielded from booksellers covered a number of topics. Of special interest was the upcoming Winter Institute. Yes, we did reach capacity in eight days! To maintain the special quality of the Institute, we cap the attendance at 500, but booksellers have added their names to a waiting list. We don’t know how many names will get cleared from the waiting list (which is now closed), but if you are currently registered for Wi7 and your plans have changed for any reason, please, contact ABA as soon as possible to let us know. That way we can assign that spot to another member bookseller on a first-come, first-served basis.

We’ll be updating you on all things Winter Institute in Bookselling This Week, and we’re looking forward to seeing you in New Orleans in January! And for all of you who dropped a business card off at the ABA booth for a chance to win a Wi7 scholarship, we will be announcing winners within a few weeks. Good luck!

Booksellers were also very interested in updates on ABA’s efforts to focus attention on the importance of formulating new industry business models. We were able to assure booksellers that several publishers have individually identified new initiatives and have selected indie bookstores in which to test these new ideas in order to determine whether bookstores might be able to sell a larger number of a broad spectrum of publishers’ titles. ABA remains convinced our industry must be open to the business innovations necessary for all segments of the book industry to thrive in the 21st century.

And, looking ahead, there was also growing excitement at the fall shows for an update about World Book Night. The U.S. is the first global partner for World Book Night, which garnered unprecedented publicity last year in the United Kingdom, as volunteers shared their love of reading and books by helping give away a million books. And the event’s influence affected books sales as well — there was a 60 percent increase in sales in bookstores of the 25 titles selected for the giveaway.

On Monday night, April 23, 2012, 50,000 volunteer book givers will go out into their communities across the U.S. and give out a total of one million free paperbacks. Last week, Carl Lennertz, the World Book Night executive director, gave an update about the 11-person Board of Directors and said that the selection process for the 25 titles to be given away during the April 23 U.S. event was nearing completion. In addition, a 35-person World Book Night publishing and bookseller advisory council will be forthcoming. Last week’s World Book Night story in BTW has more information about the title selection process, and you will be hearing a lot more about World Book Night in the coming weeks.

It was an active fall trade show season, one that we know leads into the critical holiday season for you. I hope it’s a busy and profitable time for you all! It was great talking to so many of you at the recent shows, and I hope you will never hesitate to contact me about anything related to ABA and bookselling. We can do a better job on your behalf when we always keep talking! And, of course, you can also always get in touch with your MRM, either Kaitlin or Nathan.


Oren Teicher
CEO, American Booksellers Association