An Open Letter to Booksellers From the ABA Board

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Dear Fellow Bookseller:

We are writing to you today both as colleagues and as members of the ABA Board of Directors because of our concern that one of ABA's most valuable services has become one of the most threatened.

We are talking about the ABACUS Financial Survey, a singular enterprise that has helped hundreds and hundreds of ABA bookstore members launch, expand, and sustain profitable businesses.

With the input of independent bookstores, the ABACUS Financial Survey provides a wide range of financial data and analysis, insightful and actionable data that have allowed booksellers to benchmark their operations and improve their business' bottom lines. Peter Schertz of Maria's Bookshop in Durango, Colorado, said, "The ABACUS report is indispensable to the financial operation of Maria's Bookshop. I refer to it often... Our bookkeeper, banker, and everyone involved in our business operations is familiar with the ABACUS report." (Read more about what booksellers think of ABACUS.)

Whether it's creating a business plan for a start-up loan or preparing to renegotiate a lease, ABACUS is a unique and powerful tool for success. In other industries, people routinely pay hundreds of dollars for comparable research, and ABA is pleased to provide ABACUS as a benefit of membership.

But the ABACUS Financial Survey will only continue if enough booksellers submit their financial data -- via a completely secure and confidential electronic form -- to this year's project before the August 15 deadline. The unsettling fact is that we saw sharp declines in bookstore participation for the 2007 and 2008 surveys, after strong growth in submissions in the previous three years. If bookstore participation does not increase significantly this year, the project's future is threatened.

As booksellers, we understand some of the concerns that might stand in the way of participation. First, we want to categorically state that all ABACUS submissions are completely confidential. We are delighted to announce that Avin Mark Domnitz, ABA's former CEO and a well-known expert in bookstore finances, who relaunched ABACUS for us some years ago, is continuing to assist ABA on this important project. Avin will be the only person who will see any individual store's numbers. In addition, in a deep recession such as this, we understand that some booksellers may be reluctant to share financial results. But the truth is that the value of ABACUS only increases in tough times.

In a financial landscape that has become far more challenging, the business roadmap that ABACUS provides is essential. But it can only be created if together more of us make the decision to participate. Please, don't assume that other booksellers will be the ones to help sustain this incredibly important resource. Join with them today. Completing the easy-to-use ABACUS online form takes about an hour. An Excel spreadsheet will let you organize the required information from your financial statements so that it matches the categories on the ABACUS form. And, again, all information provided to ABACUS is kept strictly confidential.

Here's a link to more information and the submission form. Please, do submit your numbers before the August 15 deadline and help ensure that ABACUS continues as the essential tool it is. And if you have any questions, please click here.

And thank you very much!

Michael Tucker
ABA President
Books Inc.
1501 Vermont St.
San Francisco, CA
[email protected]

Becky Anderson
ABA Vice President/Secretary
Anderson's Bookshops
123 W. Jefferson Ave.
Naperville, IL
[email protected]

Steve Bercu
603 N. Lamar
Austin, TX
[email protected]

Betsy Burton
The King's English
1511 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT
[email protected]

Tom Campbell
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC
[email protected]

Dan Chartrand
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water St.
Exeter, NH
[email protected]

Cathy Langer
Tattered Cover Book Store
Lowenstein Theater
2526 E. Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO
[email protected]

Beth Puffer
Bank Street Bookstore
610 West 112th St.
New York, NY
[email protected]

Ken White
SFSU Bookstore
1650 Holloway Ave.
San Francisco, CA
[email protected]