A Report on the ABA Board’s October Meeting

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The American Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors met from Sunday, October 2 – Wednesday, October 5, in Austin, Texas.

Over the course of the meeting, the Board:

  • Heard a report from ABA CEO Oren Teicher on his activities, and association activities in general, since the last full Board meeting in June, including:

o     His visits in September to Norway and Sweden at the invitation of their respective industry trade associations and his plans for this week’s presentation at the European and International Booksellers Federation Business Dinner at the Frankfurt Book Fair;

o      Encouraging industry dialog regarding new business models (see last week’s ABA CEO letter);

o      Plans for Winter Institute 7, to be held from January 18 - 20, 2012 in New Orleans, as well as programming for the nine fall regional trade shows now underway;

o      The inaugural IndieCommerce Institute, which was held just outside of Chicago, this past August;

o     Ongoing negotiations regarding ABA’s office lease options with the goal of reducing the association’s rent;

o      Grants provided by the Booksellers Relief Fund to two booksellers at an ABA member store, which has been closed due to flooding this hurricane season;

o      Meetings with Sally Dedecker, the new education manager at BookExpo America, as well as ABA’s participation in a BEA advisory committee meeting;

o      Advocacy efforts, including recent developments on the sales tax fairness front, particularly in California, and plans for a sales tax lobbying day in Washington, D.C., on November 2, in lieu of the second annual Advocates for Independent Retail Summit (see this week’s related story);

o      Membership promotions in conjunction with the regional trade shows and with the Museum Stores Association (see this week’s related story);

o     IndieCommerce news, including the creation of an IndieCommerce Advisory Council; testing of an IndieBound eReading app; work underway by development firm Optaros; and the lowering of the monthly IndieCommerce fee to $175 as of October 1;

o     Ongoing discussions with developers regarding a possible indie bookstore e-reader.

  • Heard a report from ABA President Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville, Illinois, on her activities on behalf of the association, including her keynote presentations in August in Australia and New Zealand as the invited guest of each country’s respective booksellers association. She also shared with the Board examples of each country’s marketing materials with the hope that they could be adapted for use by ABA member booksellers.
  • Discussed and unanimously approved the 2012 ABA budget.
  • Reviewed the results of a recent ABA Member Satisfaction Survey, which were presented by Membership and Marketing Officer Meg Smith (watch for a story about the survey results in an upcoming edition of BTW).
  • Received a report from ABA Technology Director Matt Supko on recent IndieCommerce developments, including testing of a new credit card checkout feature and bulk upload for custom products, as well as an update on other ABA digital projects, including progress on the BlueFire IndieBound eReading app.
  • Discussed ways to improve communications to members about publisher e-book promotions to allow for faster implementation and was informed of ABA staff’s plans to establish a dedicated communications schedule for IndieCommerce news.
  • Received a report from ABA’s investment advisor, William King, senior vice president of Merrill Lynch, on the status of the association’s investment portfolio, which has been subject to market fluctuations over the past few months. His report noted that economic growth is expected to remain sluggish and volatile, and advised that ABA should maintain its investment strategy, with adjustments made as necessary to balance the various funds within the portfolio.
  • Heard a report from Invesco Portfolio Manager Andrew Pringle about investing internationally.
  • Met with John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, who shared his company’s best practices, policies, and strategies.
  • Received a report from Dan Houston, a partner in Civic Economics, on the new Indie Impact Studies Series, which will allow 10 communities with active ABA members to engage directly with Civic Economics for a customized local study at a reduced fee that will be further reduced by 25 percent contribution from ABA. (See this week’s related story.)
  • Received a preliminary report from ABA Nominating Committee Chair Sarah Bagby of Watermark Books in Wichita, Kansas, on the nomination process currently underway for the 2012 Board elections;
  • Spoke via conference call with Carl Lennertz, chief executive of World Book Night (WBN) in the U.S., about plans for the April 23, 2012 event and expressed ABA’s commitment to staying involved in an active way, ensuring a choice of books that indie booksellers can support, and a focus on picking up books at independent bookstores among other venues.
  • Met in executive session with ABA’s general counsel, Deanne Ottaviano of Arent Fox, LLP, and conducted the annual performance review of the association’s CEO.
  • Had an informal discussion over dinner with historian Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (HarperPerennial) and other notable works of nonfiction, about his keynote presentation at the upcoming Winter Institute.