In a letter to members of the American Booksellers Association, Bradley Graham, president of the ABA board and co-owner of Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C. updated recent changes to the organization’s Ends Policies and offered insight into the organization’s short-term priorities.
For starters, the ABA began calculating membership differently. Previously, the ABA would include members who had not paid dues within a year or two, but as of January 1, 2021, the ABA counts only dues-paying members in its ranks. Current figures stand at 1,910 companies in 2,496 storefronts. In addition, it announced it will make changes to the organization’s bylaws concerning the definition of who can become a member, requiring that members “primarily sell books,” which is calculated at 50% of inventory. For those designated as core members, this will require stock to be 50% new books. New categories are being added to the “core membership,” and now will encompass “traditional bookstores, pop-up bookstores, mobile stores, book event businesses, and other non-traditional bookselling businesses that are primarily conducted in the physical (as opposed to digital) world.” Online bookstores will be relegated to the category of “bookstore members.”
Furthermore, in the first of two key announcements, the board has approved making a $3 million investment in IndieCommerce to make the platform more robust and resilient in the wake of the surge in online orders over the past several years. The board will also start screening the ABA investment portfolio according to a set of socially responsible criteria.
The board, which is is responsible for writing the Ends Policies that the CEO, Allison Hill, then interprets to determine how to manage the ABA, has made several changes in this regard over the past year, including adding a sentence declaring “a commitment to antiracism, equity, access, and representation.” The board reaffirmed its support for freedom of expression and added a sentence ensuring that stores “have the resources in support of their right to freedom of expression.” Finally, the board added two sentences to the Ends Policies to further recognize frontline booksellers. The first states that the association will work to ensure member stores “understand that the welfare of all booksellers is essential to sustainability.” The second provides that “all booksellers have the necessary resources to enable them to succeed.” More must be done in recognition of the vital role played by bookstore staff in the bookselling ecosystem, but the board considers this change in the Ends Policies a first step.
In addition, the organization said it was in ongoing discussion with publishers concerning “damages, B2B sales, virtual events, Batch, and diversity in books and sales forces,” as well as “the need for terms that support a sustainable bookstore model.” Furthermore, it said that going into the holiday season, the ABA was aware of potential disruptions to regular business and would continue to address these issues with members.