I want to first offer my congratulations to each of you on the conclusion of what I know was a holiday season full of hard work and long days. This year, I got another first-hand look at the amazing bookselling days of December, as I did my annual stint as a volunteer bookseller at pages: a bookstore, in Manhattan Beach, California. Co-owners Margot, Patti, Sunni, and Linda and their superb staff were wonderful and amazing hosts, and I’m very grateful they allowed me to join them.
As 2016 begins, once again we have some very good news to report. Despite all the challenges facing our industry, sales of books across the network of independent stores reporting to the Indie Bestseller List were up in 2015 a little more than 10 percent, continuing the positive news that we have seen in recent years. This vitality in the indie channel is a testament to the extraordinary innovation and entrepreneurial work of independent booksellers across the country. Warmest congratulations!
In the midst of this continued resurgence, it is important to acknowledge that not all stores are realizing these gains. However, overall, the national numbers reflect a very healthy independent bookstore channel. A key objective for ABA in 2016 will be to do everything we can to expand and further those sales increases to more and more stores across the country.
We continue to hope that the educational opportunities ABA offers on our website, BookWeb.org, and at the Winter Institute, Children’s Institute, Spring Forums, Fall Regional Shows, special workshops, and elsewhere throughout the year provide quality, actionable information that is helping you operate more successful businesses. Education remains the number-one goal of ABA’s Ends Policies, and, if you are not joining us in Denver next week, I hope to see you at another ABA education session some other time this year.
Looking ahead, it’s clear that in 2016 indie booksellers are facing a number of significant challenges — everything from intensifying competition from online retailers, to maintaining efficiencies in operations and payroll costs, to significant increases in the cost of real estate.
But it’s very clear, too, that now more than ever independent bookstores are the prime venue for the discovery of new titles and new authors, not to mention the sustained sales of backlist. Putting the right books in the hands of readers and book buyers remains the central mission of indie booksellers, and I’m confident that you will continue to discover new and exciting ways to do just that.
My colleagues and I are looking forward to seeing many of you very soon in Denver for Winter Institute 11. We’re pleased to have been able to grow the number of booksellers at the institute by approximately 20 percent. And, while we’ve worked hard to make the institute available to more booksellers, we’re committed to retaining and maximizing all important networking opportunities. (With that in mind, have you downloaded the Wi11 app yet?) We’ll see how the expanded institute goes, and we hope you’ll provide your feedback and evaluations — both after the education sessions at Wi11 and in the online survey you’ll receive when you get home. Your comments and feedback are key ingredients to the continued evolution and improvement of the Winter Institute, along with everything else we do at ABA.
Again, warm congratulations on another successful year.
Safe travels, and I can’t wait to see you in Denver!
Oren J. Teicher
CEO, American Booksellers Association