Well-Attended Chicago Forum Covers Broad Range of Issues

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The American Booksellers Association continued its 2004 Booksellers Forum schedule on Thursday, January 15, in Chicago, where ABA staff met with booksellers in the Great Lakes region. The ABA Booksellers Forum, held in conjunction with the Great Lakes Booksellers Association, was hosted at the Allerton Crowne Plaza, the Hotel ABA/Chicago for BookExpo America (BEA) 2004.

The forum, conducted by ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz and COO Oren Teicher with ABA President Ann Christophersen of Women & Children First in Chicago and Board member Karl Pohrt of Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor, Michigan, gave booksellers the chance to ask questions, chat, and hear about ABA's activities and plans for the future, including Book Sense at Five, the celebrations to mark the fifth birthday of Book Sense.

Great Lakes Booksellers Association Executive Director Jim Dana commented on the high turnout. "We had great attendance and really spirited discussion about a lot of issues. It was a really good meeting and discussions ranged from technical aspects of the ISBN changing from 10 digits to 14 or so, to where Book Sense is going, gift cards, the number of titles on the 76 list, and what's happening at BEA this year." Dana added that conversations about all the different issues were "more about problem solving than contentious. It was very amiable."

Ernie Ford of Fine Print Book Store in Green Castle, Indiana, told BTW that the gift card presentation convinced him to sign up for the cards. "I didn't think much of it at first, but now I do. After seeing the results [from other stores] -- sales results were up -- I'm convinced we'll have to get into it."

Ford said one of the topics of discussion was the Tattered Cover case in which Joyce Meskis, owner of the Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver, decided to resist a subpoena for customer records and a search warrant. After the discussion, a video documenting the incident, Reading Your Rights, was screened. "I actually bought the video to bring back to [Fine Print]. We're in the process of gathering signatures for [the ABA anti-Patriot Act petition] and when the students get back, we're near DePaul University, we'll probably play a continuous loop and have the petition out for students to sign. We'll get a whole bunch of people from Indiana to sign." [For more about Reading Your Rights, click here. For more about the Patriot Act petition drive, click here.]

Overall, Ford said, the forum is always helpful. "Every time I go I learn something new," he said. "Last year it was ABACUS. I filed last year, and I'll do it again. This year I'm excited about gift cards."

From Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Illinois, Tres Anderson was also struck by the success of the electronic gift card program. "I got quite a bit out of the gift card discussion. I was rather impressed by the numbers. I'm definitely taking a hard look at doing something along those lines."

Anderson mentioned that he always likes the forums because he gets to interact with other booksellers to find out what's working and what's not. "Communicating with each other is one of the biggest benefits of any of these meetings," he said.

Mary McCarthy, general manager of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Wisconsin, also appreciated gathering with her fellow booksellers. "It was great to see everybody…. The social side is wonderful," she said.

"We talked about the Patriot Act and the petitions. Everybody who was there was very pro petitions. We also discussed business in general and how people did over the holidays. We had a theoretical discussion of ABA and its purpose, whether it should be marketing or advocacy. And we covered the Book Sense 76 list, whether it should be shorter or expanded. There wasn't any consensus, but there were a lot of interesting ideas.

"And the hotel was fantastic," said McCarthy. "I thought, That's where we're staying [for BEA]! Wow."

Dana reiterated McCarthy's excitement about the Hotel ABA/Chicago. "It was nice to get a preview of Hotel ABA for BEA. It should be a great site for the show," Dana noted. --Karen Schechner