Change is in the air! Fall in the bookselling world is traditionally a time for “best of” lists celebrating great books we’ve had the pleasure of reading and selling, with the anticipation of more to come with the big fall releases. The same type of changes come to ABA with the retirement of CEO Oren Teicher, the hiring of new CEO Allison Hill, and the promotion of Joy Dallanegra-Sanger to COO. We are celebrating the successes achieved under Oren’s leadership and looking forward to the new ideas and approaches Joy and Allison will bring. As mentioned earlier, there will be a celebration of Oren’s legacy of achievement in January at Winter Institute, while Joy leads ABA until March 1, when Allison officially joins us.
I’ve visited with a lot of booksellers over the last few months, at the SIBA Discovery show in South Carolina, NCIBA’s show in California, and the Heartland Fall Forum in Cleveland, as well as with our fellow European (and some U.S.) booksellers at Frankfurt Book Fair. These gatherings of professional booksellers were all different in spirit and essence, but the common threads were the same — vibrant, upbeat congregations where folks laughed, cried, complained, and exclaimed all together (and often all at once).
The talk is about new physical bookstore formats, new legal and financial structures, and, of course, how we can make it all work. And, yes, the change continues at the organizational level as the ABA Board begins an in-depth look at what our membership looks like today and in the future, what sorts of stores are represented, what types of people are running them, and what the resources, education, and tools are that will make them profitable and sustainable.
We’re in a great spot — our numbers are bigger than they’ve been in a decade — but we need to step back and see what makes up our numbers and evaluate how bookselling works in 2020 and beyond. We’ve got good conversations started with our industry partners, with the goal to make this bookselling ecosystem run with less chewing gum and tape on the P&L and more cash money in all our pockets. It’s time the cultural relevance of independent booksellers was worth more than thank-yous and was bankable.
I believe we’re in an excellent position to start new conversations and explore new ways of talking to publishers and other industry partners. Let’s have an outrageously successful holiday season (or get a deserved rest if you’re a summer high season store) and come out of the gate charging in 2020. Let’s break the mold next year. Who says there has to be three books in a trilogy? As one of my favorite authors wrote, “So long, and thanks for all the fish!”
Chapel Hill, NC