a Hot Topic at Ann Arbor ABA Forum

On Thursday, February 7, about 30 booksellers attended an ABA Booksellers Forum at Weber’s Inn in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Representing ABA at the forum were Avin Mark Domnitz, ABA CEO; Len Vlahos, director of; and Karl Pohrt, ABA Board member, from Shaman Drum Bookshop in Ann Arbor. Among the key topics discussed at the forum were ABA’s new strategic plan and’s new marketing initiative.

Booksellers were given a chance to look at, and to give input on, a draft of ABA’s new Strategic Plan. According to Vlahos, the draft plan stirred a lot of interest at the Michigan forum, with booksellers offering feedback on ABA’s mission statement, "ABA’s Vision for the Independent Bookselling Industry," and also discussing with interest the proposed six Strategic Program Goals. All forum attendees received a "What You Need to Know" folder, which included, among many informational items, an ABA Strategic Planning Survey, a sign-up sheet to receive Bookselling This Week online, and an information sheet on new Bestseller List reporting options.

But stirring the most interest by far, according to a number of forum attendees, were discussions regarding, the e-commerce arm of the Book Sense marketing program. recently announced its ", Better than Ever!" marketing initiative, which offers a five-month free trial for stores that have never participated in the program.

"The five-month free trial is a fantastic offer for stores like me that are marginal," said attendee Lynn Kelly, president of Common Language Bookstore in Ann Arbor. "It gives us a chance to try it out."

Because the Book Sense program is evolving so quickly, it is important that booksellers attend the ABA forums to keep on top of all the new changes, said attendee Bill Cusumano, buyer at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor. As an example he cited Book Sense’s new, automated options for reporting Book Sense Bestsellers, which allows booksellers to report weekly sales data for the Book Sense Bestseller List electronically. [For more on electronic reporting, click here.]

Other booksellers concurred with Cusumano, and said that the forum taught them a great deal about Book Sense. In some cases, it even cleared up some misconceptions about the program.

"I didn’t know that I could see who my customers were if I used [as opposed to using her own Web site]," said Jamie Robinson, owner of Bestseller’s Books and Coffee, Inc., in Mason, Michigan. "I thought that, because the customer’s order would be shipped directly [from the warehouse] and not from me, that I wouldn’t see my customers … but I do get to see [who is buying from me]." Robinson added that most customers, after finding a particular book on the Web site, choose to buy the book in person -- simply to avoid shipping charges. Consequently, she not only gets to see who her customers are, she gets to greet them, too.

All in all, booksellers felt the forum was extremely productive. "I’m glad that [booksellers] have a chance to talk about things that affect our business," said Bestseller’s Robinson. "It’s a chance to interact and listen to other booksellers, and network." -- David Grogan