Notes: BISG's Making Information Pay; ABA CEO's Contract
One of the highlights of yesterday's Making Information Pay conference sponsored by the Book Industry Study Group was a statistic that put the current book market in a bit of perspective: so far in 2009, unit sales of books are down 1.2%, according to Dave Thompson, v-p of sales analysis at Random House. Thus, he said, despite the many changes occurring in the business and the "worst market we've ever seen . . . we're not in a death spiral." Moreover, he stressed, these sales don't include Wal-Mart, e-books and downloaded audiobooks.
Still most of the rest of the seminar focused on what BISG executive director Michael Healy called "truly transformational forces" in the book industry, including the changing tastes and habits of the reader, changing sales channels and how publishers are responding and should respond. Among themes: publishers have to recognize that the market has become more diffuse than ever and need to think "deeper" than broad book categories. As Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks put it: "We are competing harder in fewer categories. We're organizing internally around categories and category users and want to get to know readers better."
We'll have much more information from the seminar next week.
As part of a transparency policy, ABA president Gayle Shanks and vice-president
Michael Tucker announced details regarding the contract for incoming CEO Oren J.
Teicher. Bookselling This Week
reported that "the ABA Board has entered into a five-year contract with
Teicher, and the contract begins on June 1, 2009. His annual salary
will be $275,000. The contract also provides for Teicher to be eligible
for the ABA employee benefit package. (Given current economic
conditions, ABA has temporarily suspended SEP and 401(K)
"We are delighted to have fashioned with Oren--the Board's unanimous choice for the job--an agreement that will serve ABA very well in the years to come and one with which he is pleased," said Shanks and Tucker in a joint statement. "The search committee and the Board wanted to be certain that the entire process of selecting a new CEO, and the terms of the contract, would be as open and as transparent as possible. We believe we have fully lived up to that commitment."
One element of this year's electronic voting procedure for ABA's Board of Directors may change. According to BTW, "Before ABA could send bookstores a ballot via electronic means, however, due to the way ABA's Bylaws are written, this year members had to opt in to the process. To allow for future electronic voting without the need for members to opt in, the Board of Directors has approved an amendment to the ABA Bylaws that will be put to a vote by membership at the ABA Annual Membership Meeting at BookExpo America."
"The idea of the store was that if you wanted to build a neighborhood, you needed to have a bookstore," Bruce Harris, owner of Urban Think bookshop, Orlando, Fla., told the Orlando Business Journal, which profiled the nonprofit bookshop and its wide-ranging community outreach efforts.
"I do this as a community bookstore," Harris said. "When I say the bookstore is mine, I say it loosely. All profits go to support our foundation, so if people believe in supporting literacy for grade school-age kids, we’re doing something about it."
Black Cat Books, which had sold used and collectible books in Sag Harbor, N.Y., since 1996, has just reopened in its new Bridgehampton space, the East Hampton Star reported
"In Sag Harbor space was a real issue,” said owner Dawn Hedberg. "For years, we wanted to make the move onto Main Street, but space never came up. It was really hard to find enough space to do a nice bookstore that was anything near affordable."
Fort Collins, Colo., is "flush with independent bookstores that go head-to-head with the big boys by providing new, used and rare reads," observed Fort Collins Now in its look at indies in the region, including Old Firehouse Bookstore, Matter Bookstore, Old Corner Bookstore (which has undergone a change of ownership and will soon become Indigo Rose Books and Gifts), Al's Bookstand, Reader's Cove, Book Lovers and BookEnds.
"We try to be an actual community bookstore rather than just a provider of books," said Charles Kaine, owner of Reader's Cove. "We try to be unique and original . . . but I won't lie to you, it’s been a tough row to hoe."
Calling it "a 21st-century version of the age of discovery, teams of computer scientists, conservationists and scholars are fanning out across the globe in a race to digitize crumbling literary treasures," the Wall Street Journal reported. One effect of this quest has been the discovery of "unexpected troves of new finds, including never-before-seen versions of the Christian Gospels, fragments of Greek poetry and commentaries on Aristotle. Improved technology is allowing researchers to scan ancient texts that were once unreadable."
In its summer books preview, USA Today suggested: "Ask booksellers what books are hot this summer, and they cite fare that should appeal to readers in a tough economy." A seasonal release calendar was also featured.
"Everyone says it's better than the first one, and the first was pretty stunning," said Karen Corvello of R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn., regarding The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson (July 28), the follow-up to last year's bestseller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
The art of the book. Boing Boing showcased the work of two book artists: Thomas Allen, who "cuts the figures from vintage paperbacks and folds them up and out of the cover to create dioramas" and Nicholas Galanin's "wonderful collection of sculptures made from books, featuring reliefs of faces and traditional Tlingit forms."
A good friend of Shelf Awareness, former bookseller and former Simon and Schuster field sales director, Roger S. Williams has left Peterson's Publishing Group after having made the company's study aids program profitable. Asked what he will be doing next, Roger said, "Well let's see, I don't have any talent to be an author, so the only things I haven't done in this industry are librarian or agent." He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-865-0982.