A Report on the Spring 2011 ABA Board Meeting

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The ABA Board of Directors held its spring meeting on May 21 and 22, prior to BEA 2011. Over the course of the two days, the Board  welcomed the associations newly elected officers and directors and worked on a range of issues.

The American Booksellers Association Board of Directors held its spring meeting on Saturday, May 21, at ABA’s offices in Tarrytown, New York, and on Sunday, May 22, at the Holiday Inn Midtown in New York City, prior to BookExpo America 2011.

During the meeting, the Board:

  • Heard a report from CEO Oren Teicher, who expressed staff’s awareness of the difficulties faced by member bookstores in the first quarter of 2011, but was pleased by the modest recovery reflected in BookScan data in April and May. Teicher then provided the Board with updates on:

o      Plans for BookExpo America 2011 and the ABA Day of Education, set to start within the next two days, as well as feedback from booksellers and publishers who participated in January’s Winter Institute 6 in Washington, D.C.;

o      His recent keynote address to the Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom and Ireland’s Book Industry Conference and his participation in a panel discussion during Independent’s Day at the National Hardware Show; his attendance at a community discussion about the book business at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, and in the Association of American Publishers Annual Meeting in New York; his participation in the International Booksellers Federation (IBF) Meeting in London, as well as the London Book Fair; and the presentation of an ABA education session at the Museum Store Association’s Annual Retail Conference and Expo with incoming ABA President Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville, Illinois;

o      Time and resources devoted to a smooth ABA-Association of Booksellers for Children merger, which was expedited by the involvement of Kristen McLean, former ABC executive director, who has served a consultant to ABA. Staff is now recruiting a full-time employee to manage ABC programs and services in-house at ABA;

o      Staff’s sales tax fairness efforts, which have been bolstered by recent victories, as well as advocacy efforts regarding credit card swipe fees;

o      ABA’s Spring Forums, which included an education component and drew a greater number of booksellers than in previous years;

o      Meetings with Ingram and other industry partners to create The Bookstore Project, a series or incentives to incubate new stores; a meeting with representatives of Bowker on a range of issues, including BATCH; and a meeting with the executive directors of the regional booksellers associations;

o      Staff’s continued communication and work with participants in the Advocates for Independent Retail (AIR) Summit, as well as a meeting with executives from the small business division of American Express.

  • Heard a report from outgoing ABA President Michael Tucker of California’s Books Inc. about his recent activities on behalf of the association, including Books Inc.’s hosting of a meeting of ABA’s Digital Task Force at the store’s headquarters in San Francisco in April as well as his participation in a series of meetings with publishers in New York City in May with incoming ABA President Anderson, CEO Teicher, and ABA COO Len Vlahos to discuss the direction of the industry and steps booksellers and publishers might take to improve their collective future. Following a vigorous discussion about the publisher visits, the Board indicated a strong desire to continue the dialogue with publishers to explore and test new business models;
  • Unanimously approved President Tucker’s nominations to the Booksellers Advisory Council of Emily Powell of Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, and Diane Capriola of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia;
  • Received a report from Membership and Marketing Officer Meg Smith on the state of ABA membership, which reflected a 10 percent overall increase from the previous year. The Board discussed creating more non-bookstore member categories to grow membership and revenue and the possibility of creating rolling, monthly memberships that would automatically renew;
  • Heard a report from Smith on ABA’s April 30 Local First Task Force meeting in Rosemont, Illinois, where, among other things, she and CEO Teicher provided members with an overview of January’s Advocates for Independent Retail Summit and booksellers discussed possible areas of development for IndieBound and IndieBound.org as well as ideas for launching and expanding Local First and cross-promotional campaigns among indie retailers;
  • Heard a report from Content Officer Dan Cullen on the ABA Education Task Force, which met in New York City on April 5, immediately following ABA’s Booksellers Forum in the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association region. Cullen reported that, as a result of the meeting, plans were in the works for an IndieCommerce Institute, a one-day, two-track event to educate members on how to get the most out of the e-commerce offerings, to be held this summer. (Details to be announced soon.)
  • Was briefed by COO Vlahos and ABA Technology Director Matt Supko on a variety of issues concerning e-commerce, e-books, and other digital issues. As a result of a special IndieCommerce promotion, which ended May 31, and the launch of Google eBook™ in December 2010, at the time of the Board meeting IndieCommerce had 273 live stores, with nearly 100 additional stores having signed a contract. Staff expressed confidence that ABA would reach its goal of 300 live stores by the end of the fiscal year. In an effort to grow IndieCommerce customer service capabilities, additional employees have been hired and new processes have been put in place to ensure quick, effective communication with members. In addition, staff reported on the Google eBooks implementation and efforts to provide an app or device solution to members in the fourth quarter of 2011;
  • Discussed the new marketing partnership between ABA and OnDemand Books (ODB), the maker of the Espresso Book Machine® (EBM), which will have ABA marketing the EBM to member bookstores as well as helping permission publisher titles to the EBM sales channel. Under the agreement, ODB will offer a 10 percent discount off the up-front software license fee to ABA members that purchase or lease an EBM before April 5, 2012;
  • Met in executive session with ABA’s general counsel, Deanne Ottaviano of Arent Fox, LLP, who was present via conference call;
  • Received a report from CEO Teicher and CFO Eleanor Chang on the association’s finances through April 2011. Due to a positive investment climate, ABA is running well ahead of budget and is projecting a loss of approximately $42,499 for the fiscal year vs. a budgeted loss of $377,319. Their report also noted that the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression showed a positive investment result; there was a modest decrease in publisher support for the IndieBound marketing program; and Reed Exhibition was estimating that BookExpo America would finish ahead of budget;
  • Heard an update from CEO Teicher on ABA’s LIBRIS insurance program;
  • Received a suggestion from Board member Betsy Burton of The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City and incoming President Anderson that IndieBound and the Indie Next List vehicles be freshened and that there be a renewed effort to engage stores in participation;
  • Was briefed by COO Vlahos on The Bookstore Project, an effort of Ingram and the ABA to incubate new bookstores in markets that are currently underserved. The Board had a vigorous conversation about how to craft the marketing of the project and also how to help current members who are in distress;
  • Discussed the future of BookExpo America and the role of independent booksellers at the show with Reed Exhibition’s Senior Vice President Courtney Mueller and Event Director Steven Rosato;
  • Was updated by staff on plans for Winter Institute 7, to be held in New Orleans from Wednesday through Friday, January 18 - 20, 2012;
  • Expressed a sincere thank you to its outgoing members, President Michael Tucker and Director Dan Chartrand of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, New Hampshire;
  • Convened on Sunday, May 22, under the leadership of its new president, Becky Anderson, who raised the issue of filling the Board vacancy created by the change in the bylaws that made the presidency a separate and distinct position from the Board of Directors. Anderson put forth Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas, to fill the vacancy. Following a discussion and a formal nomination, the Board unanimously approved Koehler’s appointment to serve for one year; she will be eligible to stand for election to a full three-year term during the next election cycle;
  • Was briefed on the new publisher online initiative called Bookish by Penguin Publishing Group CEO David Shanks and Hachette Book Group CEO David Young;
  • Had dinner with Jamie Byng, founder and member of the Board of Trustees of the U.K.’s highly successful World Book Night, who urged ABA to consider participating in the event in 2012.