Book Expo America was held in New York City last week. The biggest topic of discussion was the Hatchett Book Group’s landmark dispute with Amazon regarding pricing and the percentage of authors’ sales prices a publisher and a retailer are entitled to take. This is book business, folks. And pertinent to my State of the Biz Series, so I’m quoting in full here:

ABA (American Booksellers Association) CEO Oren Teicher addressed the organization at their annual membership meeting on Thursday afternoon in an enthusiastic vein: “I could not be more pleased to be able to reiterate – the indie bookstore resurgence has continued.”

At the same time, he noted how “the aggressive discounting and strong-arm tactics of the dominant online retailer continue to cause havoc. Its recent bullying assault of a major publisher is just the latest example of a unilateral and shortsighted strategy. To put it plainly: the book industry is being held hostage by a company far more interested in selling flat screen TV’s, diapers, and groceries. It is clear they are prepared to sacrifice a diverse publishing ecosystem to achieve retail dominance. That’s not good for anyone.”

Without providing exact figures, Teicher acknowledged that ABA members overall experienced a modest sales decline in 2013 after a strong 2012. His phrase was, “After a year of robust sales growth in 2012, the indie channel held on to the lion’s share of those gains in 2013.” The opening of 2014 was also soft, due in part to the weather, but “after a truly brutal winter that depressed retail sales nationwide… sales in the second quarter have recovered.” Teicher said, “There’s every reason to believe that 2014 will be another year of solid sales for the indie channel.”

He celebrated the gains in association members and member store locations announced informally through the AP, and celebrated how “a number of established stores are expanding and opening in new locations, and a whole new generation of younger booksellers are continuing to join our ranks.” Teicher also noted “what may be the most significant change,” which is the recent pattern in which “many veteran store owners who have put their blood, sweat, and tears into building successful businesses are finding buyers for their businesses.” He added, “Stores that just a few years ago might very well have closed are now beginning a new chapters of innovation and growth.”

Teicher also announced that the ABA has signed a new seven-year agreement with Reed “to continue our partnership at BookExpo America.” He noted, “Our ongoing co-sponsorship of BEA with Reed is based on a shared commitment to providing indie booksellers with the best possible experience – and value – by attending a large national event such as this.”

At the same time, Teicher acknowledged “there are also a significant number of threats to indie bookselling.” Among them, “Congressional gridlock seemingly has delayed progress on national e-fairness sales tax legislation and maintaining the sensible and needed reformations of the Senate’s USA Freedom Act.” Apparently the ABA also has misgivings about minimum wage legislation, which “may soon pose very difficult business decisions for members as they work to maintain the business profits necessary to pay an equitable wage.”

Teicher closed by saying, “While I do not ever under-estimate the challenges we face, by working together, I remain optimistic and confident that the best days of independent bookselling are ahead.”

So there you have it, my friends. The spirit of freedom and independence lives on in the bookselling world, taxes and corporate greed notwithstanding. I, for one, am very glad to see it!

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

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