A Report on the ABA Board’s October Meeting

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The American Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors met from Friday, October 25, to Sunday, October 27, at the association’s offices in White Plains, New York.

Over the course of the meeting, the Board:

  • Heard a report from ABA CEO Oren Teicher on his activities, and association activities in general, since the last full Board meeting in July, including:

    • The association’s work in formulating the budget for the 2013 – 2014 fiscal year.
    • ABA’s participation in the fall regional trade shows, which included an update on ABA’s collaboration with the Small Business Majority in presenting an educational session that offered detailed information about the Affordable Care Act specifically tailored to the states in each region. Teicher noted that ABA was grateful to have had the opportunity to share an association update at the show’s annual meetings, as well as to meet with the Boards of many of the regional associations. He reported that ABA again had the chance to talk with a large number of members at the shows, including both newly established bookstores and the new owners of established stores.
    • Ongoing planning for Winter Institute 2014, including the fully updated event/registration website, and new programming, including tours of local stores, scheduled for the day before the opening of the Institute.
    • The execution of two IndieCommerce Institutes in the fall, preceding the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association trade shows in New Orleans and San Francisco, respectively.
    • His ongoing work on behalf of ABA in regard to next year’s World Book Night.
    • His outreach to, and meetings with, other associations representing independent businesses to establish a new coalition, Advocates for Independent Business (AIB).
    • Meetings with the American Library Association to discuss matters of mutual interest.
  • Heard a report from ABA President Steve Bercu of BookPeople in Austin, Texas, on his activities on behalf of the association, including:

    • His attendance at the New England Independent Booksellers Association fall trade show, where — together with ABA Board member Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut — he presented the education session “Nuts and Bolts of Bookstore Finance.”
    • In addition, with Board approval, Bercu appointed Board member Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Washington, to the ABA Audit Committee. (Sindelar joins ABA Vice President Betsy Burton of Salt Lake City’s The King’s English Bookshop, and Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books on the committee.)
  • Unanimously approved a combined ABA/BSI budget (which does not include ABA’s insurance company, LIBRIS) with a projected total revenue of approximately $5.21 million against projected expenses of $5.64 million. As a result, the budget anticipates utilizing approximately $368,000 from ABA’s endowment for programming on behalf of association members. Teicher noted that thanks to a careful control of expenses and a better-than-expected return on the ABA endowment the association had ended the 2012 – 2013 fiscal year with a surplus as opposed to a projected deficit.
  • Received a financial report from William King, senior vice president of Merrill Lynch, and from Amy E. Bush of Victory Capital Management, to review the results for ABA’s investment portfolio and to hear a forecast for the U.S. economy. The Board unanimously approved a temporary reallocation of a portion of ABA’s endowment from bonds to convertible securities.
  • Received a report on the upcoming Winter Institute from ABA Content Officer Dan Cullen, which included updates on sponsorship support, registration, program development, and support technology, such as online registration.
  • Received a report from BSI Senior Program Officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger on three growing programs —Thanks for Shopping Indie (TfSI), Indies First, and Indies Introduce. She noted that bookstore participation in TfSI had grown 10 percent over last year, and that ABA was confident that more than 400 authors would take part in Indies First activities — set for Small Business Saturday (November 30) — in more than 300 ABA member stores.
  • Received a report from CEO Teicher on the planning now underway for BookExpo America (BEA) 2014, including a number of meetings — among them a focus group of West Coast booksellers on October 1 — to discuss how best to enhance the overall experience of BEA for independent booksellers.
  • Received a report from ABA Director of Member Technology Neil Strandberg on the IndieCommerce program, which, as of October 21, has seen a growth in sales of 15 percent over the previous year across the network. Strandberg briefed the Board regarding the upcoming IndieCommerce platform upgrade, set for next year.
  • Heard an update from CEO Teicher and Content Officer Cullen on the current status of proposed federal sales tax fairness legislation.
  • Heard a presentation from Len Vlahos, executive director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), on relevant book industry statistics and trends, with an emphasis on the light they might shed on the indie channel.
  • Heard a presentation from Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), on that organization’s activities advocating for independent bookstores regarding the First Amendment, free expression, and reader privacy. Finan updated the Board on federal legislation soon to be introduced in the U.S. Senate — the USA Freedom Act — which would seek to restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the federal government’s dragnet collection of phone records and requiring greater transparency, oversight, and accountability in regard to domestic surveillance authorities. The Board approved — with one abstention — endorsing the legislation.