The ABA Annual Meeting and Community Forum

In the past year, membership in the American Booksellers Association climbed 11% and the association's financials were "sound," according to reports yesterday at the ABA's annual meeting and community forum. Issues discussed included the general challenges faced by booksellers, booksellers' resilience and creativity, the IndieCommerce upgrade, problems with on-sale date violations by competitors, how payments to bookstores are calculated, and whether the association should call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

ABA co-vice president and secretary Cynthia Compton, owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Ind., and MacArthur Books, Carmel, Ind., said that the association's membership as of May 15 includes 2,433 bookstore companies with 2,844 bookstore locations.

The ABA had operational revenue of $7.1 million last year, and expenses of $8.5 million. At the end of the last fiscal year, the association had an endowment of $25.9 million, which during the past year grew to $27.4 million. During the year, the ABA spent nearly $725,000 of the endowment on capital investments, including a $200,000 investment in to create an e-book option for independent bookstores, and almost $525,000 for a continuation of the IndieCommerce upgrade.

Compton added that the ABA hit two "important benchmarks" for associations. For one, they are supposed to have one to three years of liquid reserves at all times, and the ABA has three. Associations are also supposed to spend no less than 70% of the budget on programming, and the ABA has spent 76% of its budget for programming.

Tegan Tigani

In her report, president Tegan Tigani of Queen Anne Book Company, Seattle, Wash., thanked a variety of board members and ABA staffers, including CEO Allison Hill, who wasn't able to deliver her annual report because of a family emergency.

Speaking of the challenges independent booksellers face, she said that in traveling around the country, "I've been listening for what it takes to open a store and then to keep it open. For one year, three years, 10 years, 50 years... or 75 years. I've seen incredible creativity and determination. I've seen you working so hard and doing so much. For example, when I got to Yu & Me Books in New York last month, I saw a flourishing, beautiful store that had arisen from the ashes after a devastating fire in their building, a testament to the resilience of independent bookstores and the strength of the communities that they build.

"I understand that times are difficult. Many stores struggle to have enough booksellers on the floor. If store owners have to juggle credits, not pay themselves, or work for weeks without a day off, if frontline booksellers have to double down on their side gigs to pay rent and figure out how to make a job they love fit with a life they can live, it's hard to keep creating the alchemy of people and books that makes our business. But I have hope every day because every day independent bookstores shine on. We have new bookstores opening, new booksellers joining the industry, and established bookstores selling to hopeful, creative new owners. The diversity of bookstores, booksellers, and bookstore owners heralds a bright future. For me, every Tuesday is a reason for hope because I see so many wonderful new books to share with my stores' readers, and the range of new voices for us to display gives me great joy."

She also praised Batch and Edelweiss for helping "streamline more and more tasks" in her store. She noted that Independent Bookstore Day was "a wonderful day for many stores" and thanked Amanda Gorman for her role as indie ambassador. And she expressed gratitude to Binc,, and the IndieCommerce team.

Community Forum
During the community forum, David Nurick, of Cellar Door Bookstore in Riverside, Calif., shared an open letter to the ABA regarding the association's response to the community forum at Winter Institute 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where a succession of booksellers called for the ABA to use its platform to advocate for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The letter's writers and signatories felt that the ABA "is not doing enough to represent us," and found it unacceptable that the organization's response to the community forum and the calls for it to "speak loudly" has been silence. The writers wished to "formally protest the way the ABA has handled all this," and noted that "continued non-action" will force them to "reassess if the ABA is really an organization we want to be a part of."

In response, Tegan Tigani said the board has had "many long discussions" about this, and "really thought hard about this" and how "we as a trade organization have an impact." The board has heard "from so many people about many different sides of this issue," and Tigani said she really believes "that we want to continue to support your stores so that you can continue to do the important work you do in your community."

On the topic of booksellers and their stores facing threats or backlash for their stance on Palestine, Tigani said the ABA is "committed to supporting freedom of expression." Board member Lisa Swayze of Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, N.Y., emphasized that booksellers should report any specific instances of threats, attacks, or harassment to the ABA team. Noting that her store recently received a bomb threat due to hosting a drag story hour, Swayze added: "Anything that makes you feel unsafe or threatened about the things you are trying to do as a bookstore, we are 100% going to back you up."

The rollout of IndieCommerce 2.0 was brought up a number of times, with booksellers noting that it has been "slower than everyone has hoped." Cynthia Compton said the rollout is "extremely top of mind," and pointed out that the ABA has so far spent around $3.3 million on the IndieCommerce upgrade and put an additional $525,000 toward IndieCommerce last year. The board is looking at other ways it can help ABA staff with the transition, and also considering what lessons can be learned for the next time a technological upgrade takes place.

Robert Sindelar, managing partner at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Ravenna, and Seward Park, Wash., brought up the system for dividing shares from, and wondered whether the ABA could advocate for a change that would give more weight to things like the size of the store and number of employees. It did not seem equitable, Sindelar suggested, that similar factors will affect his store's ABA membership dues but not its shares.

Booksellers also expressed frustration with big-box stores selling major releases before their on-sale date apparently free of consequence. Tigani said that strict on-sale dates are a major theme during meetings with publishers, and the ABA is working with the Book Industry Study Group to develop and disseminate best practices with on-sale dates, as well as create "clear terminology" everyone can agree on. She also advised booksellers to send pictures and receipts of any strict on-sale date violations to the ABA at

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