It was not quite a month ago that my ABA colleagues and I met and talked with so many of you at BookExpo in New York. As always, it was again a great opportunity to hear updates from your stores, garner feedback about ABA programs and initiatives, and listen to questions and concerns about our industry.
The attendance at our Town Hall and Annual Meeting at BookExpo was the largest in many years, which is a great thing to be able to report. ABA depends on your engagement throughout the year, and I can’t say thank you enough for your participation — at BookExpo but also at our Spring Forums, the fall shows (which will be here before we know it), the Children’s Institute and Winter Institute, and online in our Marketing Meetups and other virtual linkups.
My colleagues and I realize that for ABA to be effective on your behalf there must be effective communication, and that, no matter how well we may be doing, there is always room for improvement. This is one of our top ongoing goals, and if you have suggestions or thoughts on how we might do better, please, do let me know.
At our Annual Meeting at BookExpo, I was able to report that ABA’s finances remain sound, and that we have once again received a fully clean report from our independent auditors. We work to be as transparent an organization as possible, and ABA’s full audited report — along with our federal tax return — are posted on the “Governance” page of BookWeb.org.
Because of our strong financial position, ABA has been able to fund and execute a number of key initiatives, including:
- Working with the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland toward launching Batch;
- Continuing to market the indie story to the press and on social media;
- Strengthening and expanding our educational programming, including on-demand video educational content;
- Investing in IndieCommerce and IndieLite;
- Growing our pre-sales initiative;
- Providing a growing and expanded range of programming for children’s booksellers;
- Continuing efforts to help increase the diversity of our industry;
- Ongoing work on fashioning a health care solution for member stores;
- Development of ABACUS and important research studies; and
- Supporting of ABA’s free speech and advocacy efforts.
It was also heartening to be able to report at the Annual Meeting that the indie channel remains vibrant and healthy. Looking at the national data, for the 10th year in a row there has been growth in ABA member stores. There are now 2,524 ABA member locations, representing 1,887 companies. In 2018, ABA saw 99 new indie bookstore members open for business in 37 states and the District of Columbia, which was a 32 percent increase over 2017. In addition, a number of member stores opened new branches, and 28 established ABA member stores were purchased by new owners. This is a testament to the spirit, creativity, and hard work of you and your colleagues, and it is increasingly clear that we are seeing a wide range of new models of bookselling and exciting innovations in start-ups.
Further, our most recent ABACUS numbers show that for the second year in a row, on average, indie bookstores have seen a growth in positive net income. The submission period for our next ABACUS report is currently underway, and the ABACUS deadline has been extended to Wednesday, June 26.
ABACUS is free, and all participating stores will get access to customized reports and online tools that are important keys for increased sales and profits. There’s full info on participating in ABACUS reported in BTW and on BookWeb.org.
Our ABACUS bookseller participation has grown, but to fully leverage the power of big numbers on behalf of the entire indie channel, we need many more participants. Please, do become part of the ABACUS community. ABACUS is our shared road map to greater profitability.
As gratifying as it is to see positive trends continue, ABA knows that all stores and all regions are not seeing this growth. And in my travels and visits with booksellers in their stores, I see firsthand just how hard you all are working to realize increased sales. To those stores that are facing flat or declining sales — or whose businesses are not yet profitable — I promise you that your experience and your perspective are not forgotten or overlooked. ABA is working to provide you the best possible educational programming, the most effective technological support, and as many opportunities for networking and peer interaction as possible.
ABA is continuing to work closely with all of our industry colleagues in the aftermath of Baker & Taylor's decision to close down their retail operations. I urge any store with questions or concerns to reach out to their Member Relationship Manager at ABA (Daniel O’Brien for SIBA, MPIBA, PNBA, SCIBA, and NCIBA; Elizabeth Roberts for NEIBA, NAIBA, GLIBA, and MIBA), who can provide updated information. In addition, we strongly urge any store that was using Baker & Taylor’s e-commerce service to reach out to our IndieCommerce team to learn more about the special offer now in place.
A trade association’s most important mission is to help its members grow and prosper. That is and will remain our central goal. Please, do share with us your ideas and suggestions for how we can better help you.
As you likely know by now, I announced back in March that I will be retiring as ABA’s CEO this fall. The ABA Board — under the direction of immediate past President Robert Sindelar and current President Jamie Fiocco — is engaged in a national search process, which is expected to be completed by this fall. In the coming months, however, there are still many things to do, and I will be working full-tilt until my successor is appointed.
My 30 years at ABA have seen dramatic change, and I’m still hoping to ferment a bit more. And I am planning to attend as many of this year’s fall shows as I possibly can. So, I look forward to our continuing to work together in the coming weeks and months.
Have a great summer!
Oren J. Teicher
CEO, American Booksellers Association