A Report on the October 2010 ABA Board Meeting

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The American Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors held its 2010 fall meeting in Tarrytown, New York, from Sunday, October 17, through Wednesday, October 20.

Over the course of the meeting, the Board:

  • Heard a report from ABA CEO Oren Teicher on his activities and the activities of other ABA staff since the last full Board meeting, including:

o      Involvement of staff directors in the creation of the 2011 budget, to be presented to the Board for approval;

o      Plans for the Sixth Annual Winter Institute, to be held from January 19 - 21, 2011 in Washington, D.C., and the immediately preceding Advocates of Independent Retail (AIR) Summit. (Watch for details on AIR in an upcoming edition of BTW.)

o      Efforts to foster strong relationships with book and retail industry partners, including the National Retail Federation, National Association of College Stores, CBA – The Association for Christian Retail, Council of State Retail Associations, Association of American Publishers, Authors Guild, Museum Store Association, and others. ABA has organized a meeting of book industry trade associations for December 2010 to continue those efforts.

o      Initiatives to build relationships with foreign booksellers associations, including plans for a meeting of English-language booksellers associations to take place immediately prior to the 2011 Winter Institute.

o      Time and effort devoted to upgrading the IndieCommerce platform and preparations for the launch of Google Editions.

o      Advocacy efforts, including health care reform, sales tax fairness, and support for the agency model of selling e-books.

o      Participation at the fall regional booksellers association trade shows and the use of technology to provide remote education.

o      CEO Teicher’s visits to several member stores and his attendance at the memorial service for the late Joe Drabyak, master bookseller at Chester County Book & Music Company and former president of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association.

o      Staff response to an increase in inquiries from the media about the renaissance in independent bookselling and efforts to encourage the telling of that story.

  •  Heard a report from ABA President Michael Tucker of San Francisco’s Books Inc. on his activities since the last Board meeting, including his participation in September in the “Bookstore of Tomorrow” panel at the Gothenburg Book Fair, at the invitation of the Swedish Booksellers Association and Lasse Winkler, editor of Svensk Bokhandel, as well as visits in conjunction with that trip to bookstores in Sweden and the United Kingdom.
  • Received a report on ABA’s 2010 financial performance, which exceeded projections by $797,000, and elected to invest a portion of the surplus in ABA programs included in the proposed 2011 budget;
  • Unanimously approved the 2011 budget, which projecteda $355,000 deficit, based on conservative estimates on investment income and other key drivers.
  •  Discussed ABA’s membership renewal efforts, including a series of phone calls made by the Board to recently lapsed members.
  • Heard an update from ABA COO Len Vlahos and Technology Director Matt Supko on the recently completed upgrade of IndieCommerce software and efforts to integrate Google Editions upon launch with the IndieCommerce platform.
  • Reviewed plans, presented by COO Vlahos and Membership and Marketing Officer Meg Smith, to promote the IndieCommerce product to non-users as well as marketing materials that will be available to booksellers to promote e-commerce and e-books in stores and online.
  • Participated in a discussion, introduced by Board member Tom Campbell of The Regulator Bookshop, about ways to do more to educate, encourage, and empower the sale of children’s books, which are less immediately impacted by digitization.
  • Received a report from William King, senior vice president of Merrill Lynch, on the performance of ABA’s endowment for the 2009 - 2010 fiscal year, which reflected an overall increase of more than nine percent and whose real value of investment was maintained, while allowing the association to use $1.8 million for operations.
  • Met with Erik Britt, senior portfolio specialist of Lord Abbett, the largest and longest-standing fund in ABA’s investment portfolio, who explained the advantage of investing in government bonds in light of Lord Abbett’s forecast for a continued slow economic recovery, with real growth two to three years away.
  • Confirmed ABA President Tucker’s appointments to the Booksellers Advisory Council, for terms beginning January 2011, of:

o      Kris Kleindeist, Left Bank Books (St. Louis, MO)

o      Neil Strandberg, Tattered Cover Book Store (Denver, CO)

o      Dara Laporte, Politics & Prose (Washington, DC)

o      Cindy Dach, Changing Hands Bookstore (Tempe, AZ)

o      Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, Greenlight Bookstore (Brooklyn, NY)

o      Michael Link, Joseph-Beth Booksellers (Cincinnati, OH)

  • Were briefed on plans for the 2011 Winter Institute and AIR Summit by CEO Teicher, COO Vlahos, Content Officer Dan Cullen, Meetings and Planning Officer Jill Perlstein, and Membership and Marketing Officer Meg Smith.
  • Reviewed and provided input on a variety of proposed marketing materials related to the IndieBound program.
  • Discussed a range of advocacy efforts, including e-fairness sales tax initiatives and governmental investigation into publisher “agency models.” Regarding the latter, the Board reviewed and approved a proposed letter to the U.S. Department of Justice supporting the agency model.
  • Agreed to a plan for Board outreach to previous ABACUS responders to encourage participation in the 2010 survey.
  •  Met with John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan Publishing, and Alison Lazarus, president of sales, to discuss issues of mutual interest.
  • Met in Executive Session, without ABA senior staff.
  •  Had lunch with the full ABA staff at the association’s offices.