American booksellers at BEA:  'endangered' no more?

American booksellers at BEA: 'endangered' no more?

Citing 48 new regular member companies in the last year, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) leadership is declaring an end to a six-year crisis in US independent bookshops.

At its annual meeting at BookExpo America in New York City on Thursday (28th May), c.e.o Oren J Teicher told the assembly, "We are engaged in decoupling the word 'endangered' from 'bookstores'."

After a "town hall" hour of organizational and procedural commentary from the floor in a less formal setting, the association went into a late-afternoon annual meeting with upbeat news at hand:

Between 15 May 2014 and  15 May 2015, the organization reports a rise of member companies from 1,664 to 1,712, or 48 companies.

In two years, from 15 May 2013, 80 member companies have been added.

In the May-to-May time periods, the ABA reports an even larger jump in "locations," meaning points of sale that comprise  multiple branches of member companies. An additional 133 store locations are reported by the ABA since 15 May last year, and 256 store locations added in two years, since 15 May 2013.

Teicher characterised the "aggregate gain" represented by all these numbers as "approximately 11 percent".

Effectively, the American reading public experiences the ABA figures as meaning that there are 2,227 association-member independent bookshops in the States at which to shop.

According to Associated Press (AP) records, the ABA was down to 1,401 core members in 2009. Since then, the AP says, gains have  been annual, although 25 years ago more than 5,000 member stores were recorded before competition from Amazon and major bookstore chains took its toll.

In welcoming the upbeat news Thursday, Teicher cited technological improvements in many stores and promotional efforts including National Independent Bookstore Day and the American Express programme Small Business Saturday.

He also commended the "ongoing advocacy" work of the organization "with elected officials in national, state and local areas." The ABA's advocacy programme includes an energetic anti-Amazon element, the page for such elements of the organization's work featuring an extensive collection of links to articles about many topics related to the Seattle retailer.

Teicher also said he is cheered by increased cooperative support from publishers and from a "final cause for optimism, the emergence of this new generation of booksellers. These new owners, managers, frontline booksellers, are bringing new energy to our ranks."

While celebrating the prospect of seeing "sales across the network going up," Teicher said, "We know that every store in the country hasn't experienced these gains," but overall, he said, member stores have reported positive sales trends in 16 of this year's 17 weeks.

Honouring "the extraordinarily hard work that you all (booksellers) do every day," Teicher told the meeting: "All the data is clear...Consumers are discovering books in physical brick-and-mortar places. That has not changed."

'A renaissance'

Incoming president Betsy Burton of The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, got a hearty round of applause when she said simply: "We are in a renaissance. And we are all thrilled. That's my report."

Burton replaces outgoing president Steve Bercu of BookPeople in Austin, Texas.

Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park and Ravenna, Washington, has been elected vice-president and secretary. And three new three-year-term directors have been announced: Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books, San Francisco; Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston; and Jonathan Welch of Talking Leave Books in Buffalo, New York.