Massachusetts Booksellers Forum Looks to the Future

On Tuesday, February 12, approximately 20 booksellers attended a Booksellers Forum held at the Westford Regency, in Westford, Massachusetts, from 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. The Booksellers Forum followed a meeting of the New England Booksellers Association Advisory Council.

Attending the meeting from ABA were Avin Mark Domnitz, association CEO; Oren Teicher, COO; and ABA Board member Suzanne Staubach of the UConn Co-op. Three members of ABA’s Booksellers Advisory Council also were present: Dana Brigham of Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Massachusetts; Susan Novotny of Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, New York; and Donna Urey of White Birch Books, North Conway, New Hampshire.

A major topic of discussion was the future, participants told BTW. Booksellers attending reviewed and offered comments on a draft of ABA’s new Strategic Plan, including the draft mission statement, "ABA’s Vision for the Independent Bookselling Industry," and the proposed six Strategic Program Goals. As part of the process, booksellers ranked each of the six goals in order of importance. Also, 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.

Mitch Gaslin of Food for Thought Books in Amherst, Massachusetts, told BTW that the discussion regarding the new strategic plan "was definitely an interesting exercise," adding that "I thought it brought out some interesting discussions. It forces you to evaluate things in a way you might not normally do."

Business-related technology and the delivery of timely business information were among other topics discussed at the forum. Booksellers provided feedback about the recently launched BTW online, and heard an update on the progressing development of the online Book Buyer’s Handbook. Willard Williams of The Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough, New Hampshire, told BTW that while he and his store colleagues still prefer the hard copy, "there were also very positive comments from people." He encouraged ABA to examine whether it might be feasible to offer booksellers the option of paying for a paper edition.

Gaslin, one of those pleased with the move to online publishing, said, "I think it’s great. It’s much more accessible, and easier to update and include changes."

Regarding the Book Buyer’s Handbook online, Williams said, "My personal feeling is that it’s ideal to have that online, because it can be updated quickly and easily," adding that "it’s the only way to keep information current on [publishers’] special offers." -- Dan Cullen