A Report on the ABA Board’s September 2016 Meeting

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

The American Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors met from September 25 – 27, 2016, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Over the course of the meeting, the Board:

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

    • His work, with colleagues, on the programming and logistics for the upcoming ABA Winter Institute, which will be held in Minneapolis on January 27 – 30, 2017. Among other things, he noted that steps had been taken to ensure that full information about Wi12 programming — including bookstore/publisher tours and educational programming on the day prior to the institute — was available to registrants, as had been requested by member bookstores;
    • Working closely with ABA CFO Robyn DesHotel, and other senior staff, on preparing the association budget for the 2016 – 2017 fiscal year;
    • Meeting with Libro.fm to explore ways in which ABA and the audiobook service might work together more closely to provide member bookstores with more options for selling audiobooks;
    • His work, with colleagues, on the new initiative with Shelf Awareness offering member bookstores a monthly Indie Next List e-newsletter for their customers;
    • Continuing his work with the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland (BA) and others in the industry regarding the possible launch in the U.S. of the BA’s Batch program for booksellers. (In use in England for 15 years, Batch is a centralized online invoice payment and data system);
    • Meeting, together with colleagues, with New York City booksellers regarding New Localism-related advocacy and to discuss the updated Civic Economics study “Amazon and Empty Storefronts,” which examines the detrimental effects on towns, cities, and states of the growth of Amazon’s online business;
    • Attending, with Senior Program Officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger and Senior Strategy Officer Dan Cullen, the recent Paz & Associates “Owning a Bookstore: The Business Essentials” workshop retreat, which had the largest workshop attendance in more than a decade. The trip, in August, to Franklin, Massachusetts, also included a visit to the nearby bookstore An Unlikely Story, started by Diary of a Wimpy Kid series author Jeff Kinney in Plainville;
    • Working, with colleagues, on ABA’s educational sessions for the fall regional trade shows. The two sessions to be presented are “An Update on the New Localism Data and Hands-On Instruction” and “Understanding and Acting on Your ABACUS-15 Report”;
    • Meeting, together with ABA President Betsy Burton and ABA Vice President/Secretary Robert Sindelar, with candidate law firms in regard to retaining ABA’s new general counsel.
    • Attending, with publishers, sales representatives, authors, and others in the industry, a special celebration of the 40th anniversary of Northshire Bookstore, which has stores in Manchester Center, Vermont, and Saratoga Springs, New York;
    • ABA’s efforts in helping Politics & Prose in its role as the official bookseller for the 2016 National Book Festival;
    • Working with colleagues on the new ABA Financial Workshops, an educational session for member stores, slated for October 15 in Baltimore, and on October 26 in South San Francisco. The sessions will be led by ABA Vice President Robert Sindelar, managing partner of Third Place Books in Seattle, Washington, and ABA Chief Financial Officer Robyn DesHotel;
    • Working with a number of ABA colleagues on the association’s ongoing social media efforts;
    • The continuing media coverage of the independent bookstore channel, and ABA’s work in responding to ongoing media inquiries, which very often include interviews with Mr. Teicher by both national and local media.
  • Heard a report from ABA President Betsy Burton of The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, on her activities on behalf of the association, including:

    • Her ongoing communications with the presidents of the regional trade associations;
    • Her work writing the president’s bimonthly letter to members for Bookselling This Week;
    • Delivering a speech to The Publishers Roundtable in New York City regarding the unique capabilities of the indie bookstore channel in promoting and selling backlist.
  • Unanimously approved a combined ABA/BSI budget (which does not include ABA’s insurance company, LIBRIS) that, because of the Board’s belief in the appropriate use of the association’s endowment to invest in programming, anticipates utilizing approximately $430,000 from ABA’s endowment to supplement ABA’s other sources of income toward initiatives on behalf of association members. Among the funded initiatives are continued improvements to the Book Buyer’s Handbook and IndieCommerce, an increased level of support for Independent Bookstore Day, and continued support for efforts in social media on behalf of members.
  • Unanimously approved raising ABA dues by no more than five percent. (ABA member dues for most categories have not risen or been adjusted for at least five years.) Dues for new stores, and for the smallest association members, will be exempt from increase.
  • Received a financial report from Ms. DesHotel reviewing the results for ABA’s operations and investment portfolio.

  • Met with Williams Jones Investment Management representatives Tom MacCowatt, partner and senior equity portfolio manager, and John Cummings, partner and senior fixed income portfolio manager, to receive a report on the association’s investment portfolio.
  • Met with David H. Evans, partner in the law firm Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, and, after a detailed discussion of relevant legal issues, the Board unanimously voted to retain Mr. Evans as ABA’s new general counsel. (This follows ABA’s long-time general counsel, Deanne Ottaviano, resigning this summer to become in-house counsel to the American Psychological Association.)
  • Received a report from ABA Senior Strategy Officer Dan Cullen and Senior Program Officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger on the upcoming Winter Institute (Wi12), which included updates on registration, educational and other programming, and sponsorship.
  • Heard an update from Ms. Dallanegra-Sanger on next year’s Children’s Institute, set for April 5 – 7, 2017, in Portland, Oregon.
  • Heard a report from Board member Pete Mulvihill, current chair of the Nominating Committee, regarding its ongoing work.
  • Accepted the report of the association’s Governance Review Committee and expressed its thanks to the members of the committee: Tom Campbell of The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina; Bradley Graham of Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.; and Amy Thomas of Pegasus Books in Berkeley and Oakland, California. The full report will be posted on BookWeb.org in the coming weeks.
  • Received a briefing from ABA IndieCommerce Director Phil Davies on a number of issues, including an update regarding ongoing enhancements to IndieCommerce.
  • Was briefed on the new study from ABA and Civic Economics that fully updates the “Amazon and Empty Storefronts” study released at Winter Institute 11. Mr. Teicher noted that, while the first study documented the negative impact Amazon has had on Main Streets and communities nationwide, the update — scheduled to be released the day after the conclusion of the Board meeting — will show that the overall losses in sales tax, property tax, jobs, and business storefronts has grown worse.
  • Met with Lara Fritts, director of the Department of Economic Development for Salt Lake City, and Kristen Lavelette, executive director of Local First Utah, to discuss successful localism initiatives in Utah, their national implications, and the key role of independent businesses in related advocacy and outreach.