A Report on the ABA Board’s January 2016 Meeting

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The American Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors met on January 21–22, 2016, in Denver, Colorado, just prior to the 11th Winter Institute.

Over the course of the meeting, the Board:

  • Heard a report from ABA CEO Oren Teicher on his activities since the last full Board meeting, in September 2015, including:

    • ABA’s ongoing work in preparation for Winter Institute 11.
    • The annual meeting of the LIBRIS Board of Directors on October 30, 2015, which he attended with ABA CFO Robyn DesHotel and Board member Sarah Bagby of Wichita, Kansas’ Watermark Books & Café.
    • His meeting on November 16–17, together with Senior Program Officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger and Senior Strategy Officer Dan Cullen, with the executive directors of the regional trade associations.
    • His work regarding the hiring of ABA’s new IndieCommerce director, Phil Davies.
    • His work with CFO DesHotel regarding the association’s annual audit.
    • His work at the Frankfurt Book Fair on behalf of ABA bookstore members, including meetings with a number of U.S. publishers.
    • A meeting with Ingram Content Group, which included ABA staff and Shawn Everson, Ingram’s chief commercial officer, and Ron Smithson, director of field sales, Ingram Book Company and Spring Arbor Distribution.
    • His meetings with both the new executive director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association and the president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association.
    • His work with Chris Finan, director of American Booksellers for Free Expression, regarding ABA’s statement on January 7 expressing “extreme concern” over the fate of five employees of a Hong Kong publisher and its bookstore who were taken into custody by Chinese authorities and brought to the Chinese mainland. Joining ABA in issuing the statement were the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild, the European and International Booksellers Federation, and PEN American Center.
    • ABA’s ongoing work in preparation for the upcoming Children’s Institute, set for June 21–23 in Orlando, Florida; Spring Forums, which begin on March 1; and publisher visits, set for the spring.
    • His ongoing work with ABA colleagues regarding future Winter Institutes.
  • Heard a report from ABA President Betsy Burton of The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, on her activities on behalf of the association, including:

    • Her travels to and participation in the fall regional trade shows of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) and New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA), including meetings with the associations’ boards.
    • Her work regarding nominations to the Booksellers Advisory Council and the ABA Nominating Committee, as well as work related to the ABA Governance Review Committee.
    • Her participation with the Small Business Majority regarding outreach to the White House following President Obama’s State of the Union address. Outreach efforts focused on a number of key issues, including the importance of a level playing field for all businesses, especially regarding e-fairness.
    • Her work on two letters to the membership that appeared in Bookselling This Week in October and in December.                       
  • Met with William Jones Investment Management representatives Tom MacCowatt, partner and senior equity portfolio manager, and John Cummings, partner and senior fixed income portfolio manager, and, concluding the Board’s months-long review process, unanimously voted to accept the recommendations of an association task force and approved William Jones as ABA’s new investment advisor. The task force was composed of Miriam Sontz of Powell’s Books, Portland, Oregon; Michael Tucker of Books Inc., San Francisco, California; ABA Board member Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books, Mystic, Connecticut; and ABA CEO Oren Teicher and Chief Financial Officer Robyn DesHotel.                      
  • Received and approved a report from ABA’s auditors, Marks Paneth, on the association’s 2015 Audited Financial Statement, for the year ending September 30, 2015. The Audited Consolidated Financial Statement provided an unqualified (“clean”) opinion of the association’s finances. (The final audited report and Form 990 will be available to members on BookWeb.org prior to ABA’s Annual Membership Meeting, to be held on May 12 at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center during BookExpo America 2016.)
  • Received a financial report from CFO DesHotel on the results for ABA’s operations and investment portfolio.
  • Received an update from Senior Strategy Officer Cullen and Senior Program Officer Dallanegra-Sanger on ABA’s work leading up to Winter Institute 11.
  • Received the report of the 2015–2016 Nominating Committee, chaired by Board member Jamie Fiocco of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Board approved the committee’s recommendation of the following four candidates to stand for election to three-year terms (2016–2019) as directors on the ABA Board:

    • Kris Kleindienst of Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri
    • Chris Morrow of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, and Saratoga Springs, New York
    • Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, and Savoy Bookshop in Westerly, Rhode Island
    • Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books, with two locations in the Seattle, Washington, area and a third scheduled to open in spring 2016.

      Philbrick and Sindelar are coming to the end of their first three-year term on the Board and are both eligible for a second three-year term; Sindelar is also in the first year of a two-year term as ABA vice president, serving alongside ABA President Betsy Burton. This is the first time that Kleindienst and Morrow have stood for election to the ABA Board. Sarah Bagby of Watermark Books & Café in Wichita, Kansas, will leave the Board in May at the end of her second three-year term on the Board. (See related story in last week’s BTW.)

  • Received a brief from Stephanie Blake of Blake Communications on her company’s recently concluded Communications Audit of ABA communications and discussed the audit’s findings.
  • Received a report from ABA technology consultant Matt Supko on various aspects of the IndieCommerce program. He briefed the Board regarding progress on key system enhancements, including search relevance, as well as continued development of the IndieCommerce Help Center’s training videos and webinars. He also detailed the next goals regarding continued improvement of the search function and of checkout.
  • Met with Michael Tamblyn, CEO of Rakuten Kobo Inc., to hear an update about the company’s operations and future plans.
  • Met with John Rubin, CEO of Above the Treeline, who presented a preview of the new version of Edelweiss, which was to be shared with booksellers at Wi11.
  • Received an update from Senior Program Officer Dallanegra-Sanger on Indies First, Indies Introduce, Indie Next, Revisit & Rediscover, and the first-ever Backlist Book Swap for Winter Institute attendees.