The AP runs their traditional Book Expo preview, and they concur with our advance piece on a quiet show that has a reduced profile for books, authors and publishers as “the sideline part of the business will be a main attraction.” Designed to appeal to a portion of the 1,000 or so booksellers who will attend, the AP underscores that sidelines comprise about 20 percent of store sales.
The ABA will report annual statistics at the show. They have modest gains, adding a net 52 members to 1,887 in all. Member stores now comprise 2,524 locations, compared to 2,470 in 2018. As we underscore with regularity, these numbers speak to the health of the organization more than they say anything particular about the state of true independent bookstores selling new books. The ABA membership comprises a broad assortment of airport, specialty, gift, online, religious, new/used, used-only, and museum stores (including a number of National Historic Sites and Parks), and actual chains such as Half Price Books and Hudson.
Only 650 to 750 ABA stores report sales to NPD Bookscan (it’s never clear why they don’t use a precise number), and a portion of those appear to Hudson outlets — but those reporting stores are up about 1 percent in units for 2019 so far.
ABA ceo Oren Teicher acknowledge that independent stores remain “fragile.” As was discussed at Winter Institute earlier this year, they remain “vulnerable to higher rents, increases in the minimum wage and the continued growth of online retail,” as the AP puts it.