ABA on the Road

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 This week has been a busy one for ABA senior staff. They've crossed the country to host four Booksellers Forum programs in conjunction with regional associations, participated in the American Independent Business Alliance's International Conference, and have two more forum programs and a Digital Task Force meeting upcoming this weekend.

On the Friday, April 9, more than 40 attendees gathered for the ABA/Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association Forum and Seminar held at the National Association of College Stores (NACS) Continuing Education Center in Oberlin, Ohio. Topics of discussion at the forum, moderated by ABA CEO Oren Teicher, included e-book options, the ABA e-commerce solution, and NACSCORP.

"The forum was well attended with a great mix of booksellers from trade stores and college stores," said Rita Williams of Books of Aurora in Aurora, Ohio. "Several of the attendees have been on both sides of the business."

Liz Murphy of The Learned Owl Book Shop in Hudson, Ohio, said many booksellers were ready to start offering e-books. "Most in attendance are very eager to be able to sell e-books through our websites," she said. Murphy was happy to learn that booksellers will be able to sell e-books via a Google e-book option.

The primary focus of the tech discussion was "How do booksellers successfully deliver digital content to their customers?" said Williams. "This is an issue that hasn't been solved yet and booksellers are anxious for more discussion with all parties in the industry."

Murphy welcomed the discussion covering e-book technology, even though it's unfamiliar territory for her. "I am so technologically challenged that a lot of this did go over my head.  All I know is that a lot of my customers have e-readers and are buying downloads -- not from me." Murphy said she planned on buying, or at least trying out, an e-reader, after learning that some booksellers had purchased e-readers, loaded them with titles, and rented them to customers. "I am going to start selling e-books, but right now they are so much more expensive than Amazon that there is no point."

NACSCORP, a subsidiary of the National Association of College Stores that provides selections of gifts, bargain books, and DVDs in small minimum orders, has great options for booksellers, said Murphy, including a wide assortment of puzzles, games, gifts, CDs, and DVDs. "Instead of having to spend $200 or $300 with a game supplier, you can try out a small selection!"

"It was good to see familiar faces and new ones," Williams noted. "The energy was high and the tour of NACS warehouse was amazing."

"I am so glad I went," said Murphy. "The fact that Oren, as ABA CEO, was there, ready and willing to talk and answer questions, was very impressive. I'm sorry that every bookstore in driving distance didn't send someone."

Earlier in the week, some 70 booksellers attended a forum at the University of Southern Maine's Glickman Library. ABA's program on Wednesday, April 7, was held in conjunction with the New England Independent Booksellers Association Spring Meeting, which featured author talks and readings and a boxed lunch with authors.

"It was a delight to see all my bookseller friends and hear from such a wonderful group of authors, many of which I had been unfamiliar with," Suzanna Hermans of Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck and Millerton, New York, told BTW.

ABA COO Len Vlahos moderated the forum, where booksellers shared their thoughts and concerns about e-fairness, e-books and digital content issues, and trade terms and bookseller-publisher interactions. ABA Technology Director Matt Supko also presented the Wi5 education session "Techniques and Tactics for Website Promotion."

"Great event, great authors," said John Hugo of Hugo Bookstores in Massachusetts. Regarding the discussion of developments on the e-book front, Hugo said that he was looking forward to learning more about ABA's initiatives with Google. "I also learned of a great new way to make money and help print-on-demand authors from the kind folks at Oblong Books," he said.

On Tuesday, April 13, Teicher and Vlahos were in Lake Forest Park, Washington, for a forum program in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and on Wednesday they traveled to Long Beach, California, for the a forum program at the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association's Schmooze Cruise II/Spring Meeting. Tomorrow they'll be in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at a Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Regional Focus Meeting.

Supko will join Teicher and Vlahos on Saturday, April 17, for a Digital Task Force Meeting in San Francisco, followed by forum program on Sunday in conjunction with the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.

Meanwhile, Membership and Marketing Officer Meg Smith took IndieBound on the road to AMIBA's International Conference in Tampa, Florida. Also participating in the program were Steve Bercu, co-owner of Austin, Texas' BookPeople, an ABA board member, and founder and president of the Austin Independent Business Alliance, and Betsy Burton, co-owner of Salt Lake City's The King's English Bookshop, an ABA board member, and founder and president of Local First Utah. The event's host IBA is the Tampa Independent Business Alliance (TIBA), co-founded by Carla Jimenez, who is co-owner of Tampa's Inkwood Books, a TIBA board member, and a former ABA board member.

This week, Smith is also scheduled to present IndieBound at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.