A Report on the ABA Board’s 2011 Summer Meeting

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The American Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors held its summer meeting from Friday, June 24, through Monday, June 27, in New Orleans, Louisiana, site of the 2012 Winter Institute.

Over the course of the meeting, the Board:

  • Reviewed and unanimously approved the committee appointments of ABA President Becky Anderson, of Anderson’s Bookshops (Naperville, Illinois), as follows:

Nominating Committee:

o     Board member Sarah Bagby (Chair), Watermark Books (Wichita, Kansas)
o     Board member John Evans, Diesel, A Bookstore (Oakland, California)
o     Dick Hermans, Oblong Books and Music (Millerton, New York)
o     Leslie Reiner, Inkwood Books (Tampa, Florida)
o     Former ABA President Michael Tucker, Books Inc. (San Francisco, California)

Audit Committee:

o     ABA Vice President/Secretary Steve Bercu, BookPeople (Austin, Texas)
o     Board member Betsy Burton, The King’s English Bookshop (Salt Lake City, Utah)
o     Board member Tom Campbell, The Regulator Bookshop (Durham, North Carolina)

Governance Review Committee:

o     Carla Jimenez (Chair), Inkwood Books (Tampa, Florida)
o     Jill Miner, Saturn Booksellers (Gaylord, Michigan)
o     Dale Szczeblowski, Porter Square Books (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

Booksellers Advisory Council:

o     Jeff Mayersohn, Harvard Book Store (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
o     Linda Barrett Knopp, Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe (Asheville, North Carolina)
o     Shawn Walthen, Chapter One Book Store (Hamilton, Montana)
o     Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books (Mystic, Connecticut)
o     Lanora Hurley, Next Chapter Bookshop (Meqoun, Wisconsin)

  • Heard a report by ABA CEO Oren Teicher on his activities since the last Board meeting, in May, including:

    • Meetings with publishers to discuss the creation of new business models;
    • Meetings with publishing executives to discuss support for World Book Night, which to date have resulted in commitments from several publishers to contribute funds to create a U.S. version of the highly successful U.K. event;
    • A meeting, also attended by ABA COO Len Vlahos, with William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble, to discuss a range of issues of mutual interest;
    • His continued involvement with the International Booksellers Federation;
    • Conversations between COO Vlahos and executives of trade associations in both Australia and New Zealand on digital issues;
    • Plans for a proposed ABA/Museum Store Association joint membership offer;
    • Plans to enable members to pay dues monthly on a rolling basis;
    • Staff review of ABA’s office lease options to reduce rent;
  • Received a detailed report from CEO Teicher on last month’s BookExpo America, which looked at attendance figures and the ABA experience, as well as the association’s future involvement in the show;
  • Discussed the need for ABA to more fully and openly communicate with membership about association activities, and recommended that staff work with the Board to create a periodic update from the president and CEO;
  • Received a financial report from ABA CFO Eleanor Chang, which noted that the only notable change since last Board meeting in May was increased instability in the investment environment;
  • Heard a report from COO Vlahos on the post-BEA Booksellers Advisory Council meeting, where members discussed a variety of subjects, including how ABA can best participate in BEA. Following the report, the Board had a protracted discussion about how best to organize ABA’s Day of Education and the association’s overall participation in BEA;
  • In response to a suggestion from Board member Betsy Burton that ABA find a way to tap into the knowledge and wisdom of experienced booksellers, agreed that staff and the Board together would consider creating an opportunity for former Board members to meet as a think-tank to provide insight and input to the Board;
  • Recommended that staff look into possible solutions to provide live-help for IndieCommerce emergencies in off-hours, when ABA staff is not available;
  • Was briefed by President Anderson, CEO Teicher, and COO Vlahos on a range of new business models the association is poised to test with a variety of publishers;
  • 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 COO Vlahos on IndieCommerce and e-books that noted:

    • The universe of IndieCommerce users continues to grow;
    • Sales through the family of IndieCommerce stores are trending up;
    • Staff is confident that the goal of having 300 IndieCommerce users by September 30 will be achieved, and that the monthly fee will drop from $225 to $175/month;
    • Based on feedback gleaned from ABA’s Digital Task Force meeting and a member survey, staff had contracted with development firm Optaros to create a variety of new features for IndieCommerce websites, including storage of customer credit card numbers for easy repeat use, bulk upload of non-book items, search for non-book items, basic browse functionality, and more;
    • Staff recommends that ABA partner with BlueFire to create a white label e-reading app;
  • Unanimously approved funds to partner with BlueFire to white label an indie bookstore e-reading app, which would allow consumers to purchase books directly from the app, provided that the ongoing cost of the app is borne by the IndieCommerce users;
  • Received an update from CEO Teicher on advocacy issues, including:

    • A broad range of sales tax efforts undertaken by ABA members and staff;
    • ABA Content Officer Dan Cullen’s continuing work with staff at the Small Business Administration to help ease the process for bookstore members to apply for and receive SBA guaranteed loans; and,
    • Lobbying efforts to reduce debit card swipe fee costs to retailers;
  • Heard a report from COO Vlahos on plans for the IndieCommerce Institute, scheduled for August 10 in Rosemont, Illinois;
  • Reviewed plans for educational programming at Winter Institute 7, taking place in New Orleans in January 2012, and suggested increasing education on Local First issues throughout the year;
  • Heard a report on plans for the second Advocates for Independent Retail Summit (AIR 2) Summit, tentatively scheduled for early 2012;
  • Met with Michael Jacobs, CEO of Abrams, to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the creation of a bookseller focus group to share input on new business models;
  • Met with Paul Kozlowski, associate publisher of Other Press, to discuss matters of mutual interest;
  • Discussed ways to improve and create more consumer awareness of the Indie Next List, as well as the creation of marketing tools to help booksellers promote and curate nonfiction;
  • Discussed staff efforts related to the ABC Children’s Group at ABA, including the search for a full-time staff person to manage the group;
  • Was briefed on plans for ABA participation in the regional bookseller association trade shows taking place in fall 2012;
  • Attended the American Library Association trade show and conference and, following discussions, recommended staff create best practices and education on how bookstores and libraries can work together;
  • Met with William King, senior vice president of Merrill Lynch, and James K. Kaesberg, senior portfolio manager for Victory Capital Management, to discuss Victory Capital and Merrill Lynch’s forecast for the U.S. economy and to review the results for ABA’s investment portfolio, which is outperforming all indices.