ILAB Newsletter 60, September 2008
Introduction by President Michael Steinbach
Dear ILAB affiliates,
As nearly a year has passed since the last Newsletter, I want to inform you in brief about what happened in the ILAB community in the meantime.
The last months have been busy with the organisation of the ILAB Congress and fair in Madrid in September and the preparations for our meetings, workshops etc. Our Spanish colleagues have done a great job to make this upcoming Congress as attractive as possible, and the outcome is a fine mixture of conferences, visits to libraries and museums, and excursions. In order to recover from these exhausting labors the organizers have even arranged a visit to a flamenco show. I am very much looking forward to this event, a strong indicator of the liveliness and viability of ILAB and its affiliates. Approximately a hundred booksellers will participate in the Congress, and we think the success for the Congress will encourage even more of our colleagues to attend the 2010 Congress in Italy.
One of the most important achievements we have reached in the past year was the agreement with the Breslauer Foundation, who have made a generous donation to the Prize for Bibliography. Together with the donations already received – and which are still being welcomed - this will assure that in the future the prize will be self-supporting. Again I want to thank all of the donors to the Prize.
Our website is continuously improving. In the past year we have hired a part-time editor who has added links, news, the Newsletters of several of our national affiliates, and even videos to the site. We have recently added a co-editor who will contribute news from Europe to the site. This will make our website even more attractive, and move it towards our goal of making it a primary destination for everyone who seeks information about the antiquarian book, and the community that has grown up around it. Additionally we have recently added Russian and Spanish language versions of the site, and we continue to add different language versions of the site as money and time allows. The next time you visit the website, you will also find an interesting offer from the German Association for our affiliates: Book Auctions Online (see page 9). Also this year, we have made an effort to encourage an Argentine association of rare booksellers to join ILAB. Conversations, phone calls, and emails continue to be made in this effort. We have made further effort to engage the Russian antiquarian trade, thanks largely to our colleague Mr. Waschke who in his last journey to Russia established some contacts for us. Some of our Russian colleagues will almost certainly be joining us as observers at our Congress in Madrid. This will help to establish serious contacts with this emerging and important market.
As my term as President of ILAB ends in September, this will be my last editorial for the Newsletter. I want to thank all those who have supported me during my term of office and I hope that the work of the ILAB committee will continue to be of importance and useful for all of our affiliates.
With best regards,
Past President, ILAB
Hong Kong Book Fair exceeds expectations
More than 1500 people attended the fair which was held on the fifth floor of an office building on Hong Kong Island. There was lots of publicity with extensive coverage in the Chinese language press and twice in the main English Language newspaper – The South China Morning Post. The venue was small and in three rooms but this did not seem to matter as most people found their way around. As there had been no similar events held in Hong Kong it was a new experience for the company engaged in setting up the fair but they came through with flying colours.
Television cameras were there for the opening night and again on Saturday and I believe that we had 20 minutes television time. There were 800 ILAB directories handed out at the entrance and ILAB posters and bookmarks were prominent around the rooms. Adrian Harrington was in charge of this and he excelled himself in promoting ILAB. Sixty-four booksellers were present from Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Australia, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, United States, and Canada. Visitors attended from many countries in the region as well as Australia and Europe.
Overall sales were excellent with as much as two million US being sold. It was a normal bookfair with some booksellers selling nothing at all and others making $100,000 + sales. The most expensive book sold was an Atlas for approximately $500,000 US. The purchaser intends to donate this book to the Hong Kong University. It was an opportunity to make and meet new customers. As usual not everyone feels that they have done this. I am certain that I have met some new customers and have already had emails from three people I met at the fair. I know that one dealer made a sale of 20,000 pounds a few months after the fair.
The 1500 visitors to the fair were mostly Asians, perhaps because the organizers (I am one of them) did not reach the expatriate community enough. Librarians were present from Shanghai, other parts of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Booksellers visited from Beijing, Hong Kong, Manilla, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, Finland, United Kingdom and Bangkok (possibily a few other places too).
The customers were librarians, trade, Chinese private buyers and expatriate Westerners. Some were adding to collections and some were new customers. The response from many of the people was fantastic and many thanked me for helping to organize such an event.
There was an approach made from the Chinese trade in Beijing to enquire if we could organize a similar event in Beijing next year. The very short and swift reply of NO was uttered. However as a result of this request Mr. Mitsuo Nitta and myself held a formal meeting with them and an interpreter and discussed the possibilities of further trade and interaction.
As a result of this meeting Mr. Nitta and myself have been invited to visit Beijing and they will show us around the trade and show us possible venues for a Western style bookfair which they hope can be held in the next couple of years. We discussed several possible problems which may arise such as censorship and currency difficulties and the discussions were positive without being definitive. There is obviously a great potential for advancement here.
There is an antiquarian booksellers association in China with about 20 members. We do not as yet know any of the details. There are of course many problems to be overcome before we can have a bookfair or before we can approach them to talk about membership of ILAB. We discussed the issue of censorship and they replied that apart from very delicate modern political issues like independence for Taiwan or Tibet there was no censorship – this issue of course needs further exploration. They said that erotic material was no problem and seemed to indicate that Chinese erotica was far more pornographic than Western material anyway. They assured us that any currency issues could be easily overcome and that credit card use was widespread. The problem of export of old material was discussed. Any material printed pre-1911 could not be purchased by Western booksellers for export. If a bookseller took such material into the country and declared it properly on arrival then they would be permitted to take it home with them if it did not sell.
On the Monday after the fair Mr. Nitta and myself were present at a meeting where we formed the Asia Pacific Antiquarian Booksellers Association. I am the very temporary chair. This meeting was attended by 6 booksellers with apologies from about another 8. It is proposed that we circulate suggested rules and a suggested constitution and then a general meeting will be held in late May to elect an executive and make decisions on rules, etc. There are 3 possible members from Thailand, 2 from the Philippines, 7 from Hong Kong, two from Taiwan and a few other names were thrown around as well.
The Association at present is stalled but it is hoped to push further in the next few months. Many other things happened in Hong Kong – chiefly strong memories have been made so that when Mitsuo and I are old men we will have some great stories to tell from the good old days!
The next Hong Kong Antiquarian Bookfair is to be held on Saturday 17th, Sunday 18th & Monday 19th, January 2009. So far about 65 booksellers have signed up. There is still room for more. If you are interested please contact myself or Ellie Aroney at email@example.com or have a look at the website: www.hongkongantiquarianbookfair.com
ILAB Committee Member
Pan-Asian Association Formed with eye towards joining ILAB
A meeting of Asian based booksellers met with Paul Feain resulted in an agreement to form a Pan-Asian Antiquarian Booksellers Association, in order to further develop the rare book trade in Asia, and possibly to act as a base from which to form national associations. Feain was appointed as interim president.
Further meeting are expected to be held in Hong Kong later in the year, however at this stage it is an embryo association, without permanent officers or constitution.
ILAB Committee Member
Paris Committee and Presidents Meeting
In September of 2007, the French association SLAM ably hosted the meetings of the ILAB Committee, and immediately after, the meetings of the Presidents of the ILAB affiliated nations. While the ILAB Committee conducts the day-today business of the League, most of the important decisions of the League must be authorized by the Presidents, each of whom have one vote, except for the four countries with the largest numbers of affiliated booksellers: France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, each of whom has two votes.
The Committee meetings took place at the SLAM offices at 4, rue Gît-le-Cœur, Paris. After being greeted by SLAM President Frédéric Castaing, the Committee spent parts of the next two days reviewing current business and preparing recommendations for the Presidents.
The Presidents’ Meeting followed over the course of the next two days at the Palais de la Mutualité. Attending the Presidents’ Meeting were the Committee members, the presidents or representatives of sixteen ILAB affiliate nations, four Presidents of Honor, and a Member of Honor, as well as others with business before the League.
ILAB President Michael Steinbach welcomed all and summarized the activities and concerns of the committee and the progress that had been made on many fronts: the establishment of the 2008 ILAB Congress and Book Fair in Madrid, the efforts to fund the ILAB Prize for Bibliography in perpetuity (see related article), progress on the ILAB website, with the hiring of a website editor, and the dramatic improvements to the ILAB Directory, particularly in the indexing, almost completely achieved through the efforts of ILAB Executive Secretary N. Marsh.
ILAB Treasurer Poul Poulson reported that ILAB finanaces were better than anticipated, largely thanks to higher levels of participation in the ILAB sanctioned Paris and American book fairs. While in 2006 ILAB ran a slight deficit, as of the Paris meeting, ILAB had a modest surplus of 45,000E in hand. It should be noted that a relatively large percentage of ILAB’s budget comes from the subscriptions, and the book fair levy at the American book fairs, and that the recent precipitous decline of the U.S. dollar is, and may continue to be, the cause of some concern.
SLAM President Frederic Castaing introduced the first motion of the meeting proposing that the annual accounts of ILAB be presented according to international standards with the help of a certified accountant. This would include at least a balance statement, an operating account or income statement and a provisional budget, and allow a comparison with the figures from the preceding financial year. After discussion, the motion was carried unanimously.
During the course of the meeting, several presentations were made on Internet matters by ILAB webmaster Jelle Samshuijzen of Rockingstone, and by Jim Hinck of the rare book website Via Libri. Hinck, a member of both SLAM and ABAA, gave a presentation on his website and service, ViaLibri, which came well recommended from several sources. His thoughts on the future development of commerce on the Internet were interesting and will continue to inform the future development of ILAB’s efforts on the Internet. Mr. Bo Knutsson, President of the international art and antique dealers organization CINOA, with which ILAB has been in contact in recent years, attended the meeting and shared his perspective on issues that face both organizations.
Mr. Richard Thompson, a British insurance broker, presented an idea for an insurance plan for rare booksellers, at the urging of the British association ABA. The ABA has long worked with Mr. Thompson on an insurance plan for their members, and had encouraged him to come up with a similar plan for ILAB affiliates. Until recently some booksellers could only buy insurance in their own countries, but recent changes in EU practice now allow those dealers to pursue more competitive rates across national borders. The ILAB Committee, while unlikely to endorse any single insurance plan, continues to work with Mr. Thompson in order to formulate an appropriate plan for affiliates.
This is a brief summary of the meetings, but a fuller picture can be seem by reading the complete Minutes of the Paris Presidents Meeting. These can be viewed in the Members Only section of the ILAB website.
SLAM President Frederic Castaing, and Committee member Jean-Pierre Fouques and his wife Sue, were tireless and genial hosts to the Presidents, Committee, and spouses, hosting several events, including an opening reception dinner cruise on the Seine, a tour of Versailles and a farewell dinner.Through the good offices of former SLAM President Emanuel Lhermitte, the participants were given a special tour of the Senate and its Library.
All the participants were grateful for the generous hospitality of the SLAM hosts.
Report of the London Meeting
The Committee met in London for two days as guests of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association. The meetings were held in the offices of Bernard Quaritch at 8 Lower John Street on March 5-7, where the firm’s Executive Director Ian Smith saw to the comfortable disposition of the participants.
Consultations and some negotiations were held with the webmaster and search engine provider Rockingstone, and with representatives of Publications UK, who provide the ILAB Directory for free, in exchange for permission to solicit advertising from affiliate members and others. Additionally, the Committee was updated on insurance broker Richard Thompson’s efforts to develop an insurance policy appropriate to be offered to affiliates. The firm has worked extensively with the ABA, and come recommended by that group. The ABA hosted a dinner for the Committee, in the aptly named Stranger’s Room of the Reform Club. ABA President Allan Shelley welcomed the Committee members and the many ABA members who attended.
The Committee is grateful for the efforts of Allan Shelley, the ABA, and Ian Smith and all the staff of Quaritch for their hospitality.
Generous Gift Will Allow ILAB – Breslauer Prize for Bibliography to Exist in Perpetuity
Years of work by the ILAB Committee and the generous support of many booksellers has now resulted in sufficient funding to allow this special prize for Bibliography to exist in perpetuity. The Presidents of our League had challenged the Committee to find a way to keep this important Prize alive and a series of fund raising steps were taken. A challenge grant first proposed by our affiliates, Ann and David Bromer, provided a grand beginning to this campaign. We got gifts from the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of Japan (ABAJ), Mitsuo Nita, Verband der Antiquare Öesterreichs (VAO), The Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA), Adrian Harrington, Peter Harrington, Bernard Shapero, Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of Canada (ABAC), and Svenska Antikvariatföreningen (SVAF) which exceeded the goal set by the challenge grant. Contact with Felix de Marez Oyens, noted author, consultant and President of the Breslauer Foundation, provided the final key to our funding problem. The Breslauer Foundation was set up by Dr. Bernard H. Breslauer (1918-2004), an ILAB dealer who had a life-long passion for the field of bibliography. The Foundation heard our plea for the Prize and responded with a gift of $108,000. In 2008, the name of the Prize was changed to the ILAB - Breslauer Prize for Bibliography to honor this gift.
This international Prize of $10,000 US is awarded every fourth year to the author(s) of the most original and outstanding published work in the broad field of bibliography. Any aspect of bibliography (e.g. enumerative, textual, history of the book, design, binding, book trade, etc.) is admitted. Certain categories are not eligible, notably catalogues of books (or exhibitions of books) intended for sale, catalogues of public libraries, and translations of works appearing in another language. Apart from the Prize, the jurors may at their discretion award Honorable Mentions to other deserving entries. The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to the best academic work being done in the field, to reward and honor it in appropriate terms, and to publicize the League's support for the original scholarship on which the book trade so much depends. The awarding of this Prize and the encouragement of scholarship has always been an important cornerstone in the foundation of the ILAB. Georges Deny (of Brussels) was appointed as its first Secretary and laid down the ground rules and supervised the first and second Awards. He was succeeded by Frieder Kocher-Benzing (of Stuttgart) who was the longest serving Secretary presiding over the third to eleventh Awards. The twelfth and thirteenth awards were overseen by Konrad Meuschel (of Bad Honnef). In 2002 Raymond Kilgarriff was appointed Secretary for the fourteenth Award which was presented in 2006. The 15th Prize will be awarded in 2010 to one or more bibliographies published between 2005 and 2008, with Mitsuo Nitta (of Tokyo) as Chair of the Prize Committee.
The panel of judges (or jurors) consists of three professional scholars or librarians and three antiquarian booksellers. All are chosen for their expertise in the field of bibliographical scholarship as it is on their standing and judgment that the reputation of the Prize itself depends. The judges represent the widest possible range of nationalities so that the panel is qualified to adjudicate on books in various languages and on all aspects of the field. A book may be entered by the publisher, the author, or any other interested party, simply by sending a single copy to the Prize Secretary (Arnoud Gerits of Amsterdam).
ILAB President of Honour
Report from the 2008 Grand Palais Paris Bookfair
Some 157 bookdealers (a third from outside France) and 30 print sellers were present at the fair. The Grand Palais location with its vast volumes and excellent natural light, presented almost ideal conditions for both exhibitors and visitors: 3m deep booths and wide alleys with rest areas, a concert area (with thrice daily chamber music concerts), a conference room, various displays (bindings and photographs) and demonstrations (restoration, binding and copper plate printing); and a spectacular exhibition by this year's guest library, the Bibiotheque Nationale de France.
The event was well relayed by the media and some 24000 visitors were registered. Although every visitor was not a buyer, the event undoubtedly sparked a new general public interest in the antiquarian book world at large (books, prints and manuscripts), with many first time visitors and the presence of the younger generation. In spite of the current French economic slowdown, sales statistics show the market is holding well, with some spectacular higher end sales, and most exhibitors seemed satisfied.
The SLAM sees the venue as an essential tool in the promotion and development of the antiquarian book trade in France, Europe and abroad. Next year's guest library will be the National Library and Archives of Québec, for a very special exhibition on the history of the France – America relationship. This will also be the general theme of the next edition of the fair, to be held from 18th-21st June 2009.
ILAB Committee Member
Olympia Report 2008
This year’s Olympia Book Fair continued successfully, under the able direction of Marianne Harwood, with eighteen more exhibitors than the year before, and increased overall sales. The ABA reports that despite the increase in exhibitors, the per dealer income was up even beyond last years excellent results. This year was the tenth anniversary of the move to Olympia, as well as the largest Fair yet sponsored by the ABA. The organizers continue to upgrade the infrastructure of the fair, with older shelving, which in the past has resulted in some “interesting” accidents, being discarded and replaced with new. The increased number of exhibitors resulted in difficulty in providing enough glass display cases, but thanks to the methods introduced by Marianne Harwood this year, the ABA is now in a position to do a thorough review of the entire logistics of the Fair with resulting potential economies. While booth rents have remained the same for five years, despite increases in costs to the organizers. Hopefully the careful review will help to hold any stand rental increases to a minimum.
The exhibitor feedback, judging from the submitted comments, indicated that everyone enjoyed the show. The organisation of the fair was universally praised and given all of the hard work, it was gratifying to know that it was noticed.
It was a very full three days, and with several National Presidents and Michael Steinbach in attendance there was also ILAB work to do. The ABA has been diligent in collecting exhibitor sales reports for many years, one of the few international book fairs to pay such close attention to these figures, and while individual reports are often viewed with scepticism (the number of dealers reporting “no sales” seem unusually large, despite the happy faces), however these figures do indicate some broad trends, and are a crude measure of the state of the Market, as the ABA uses the same methodology every year.
The organizers of the fair are always aware of the perception that there is an apparent aging of the population of collectors and dealers, and they go to considerable lengths to promote the Fairs to an audience outside the regular book trade, advertising in traditional publications, but also in publications as diverse as The Jewish Chronicle, Time Out and The Telegraph. Vanessa Clewes Salmon does an extraordinary job in getting us editorial attention in the national and overseas Press, this year even making it into the Telegraph in India, with the result that they now want to publish an article in India on book collecting and the care of books!
The organizers collect details from new visitors to their Fairs and last year added 670 new names to their database from Olympia and Chelsea, this year’s Olympia added a further 400.
Linda La Plante proved to be a gracious and interested Patron of the Fair. She presented bookseller Norman Storey with a “50 years a Bookseller” badge.
The insurers Hiscox were kind enough to host a party for the exhibitors at Olympia, but clearly they weren’t prepared for the resulting chaos when booksellers are offered something for free. The Champagne ran out in no time and the wine was consumed in copious amounts. The food barely made it one yard into the room before platters were emptied and the startled waiter had to dive straight back in the kitchen for more. At the reception ABA president Alan Shelley presented longtime member Paul Minet with a stunning, Bernard Middleton-bound copy of the ABA publication “Out of Print and into profit” as a thank you for all of his hard work in taking the book through to its successful and profitable conclusion.
The Fair was one of the smoothest run by the organization and credit as always goes to Marianne Harwood and John Critchley.
ILAB president Michael Steinbach and VDA president Eberhard Köstler Agree on Reduced Prices for ILAB affiliates
Michael Steinbach and Eberhard Köstler of the Association of German Antiquarian Book Dealers (Verband Deutscher Antiquare e.V., VDA) are proud to present a new internet database as a special service for all ILAB affiliates: Book Auctions Online or Auktionspreise Online. It is organized by the VDA, whose experts have programmed a database that contains all auction results of the following auction houses:
Hartung & Hartung
Hauswedell & Nolte
Jeschke, Hauff & Auvermann
Reiss & Sohn
Venator & Hanstein
Zisska, Schauer & Co.
An inclusion of further auction houses is in preparation so that Book Auctions Online will become an attractive means for research not only for the European market but for the antiquarian book business worldwide.
The project arises from a cooperation of antiquarian book dealers, librarians and private collectors with computer experts, brought together by the VDA. Book Auctions Online is designed after the latest standards of the internet – as an efficient and a cheap alternative to the conventional price records. It offers the ultimate database to registered users with manifold search options, through a mouse click and a password. The database was introduced in January 2008 during the Stuttgart Antiquarian Bookfair. Then members of the VDA had the opportunity to test Book Auctions Online and to make suggestions to improve the database until the end of June. Book Auctions Online was upgraded. It now contains more than 600.000 data records, and will be maximized when the other auction houses join the database in the near future.
Since July 2008 Book Auctions Online is open to everyone under www.auktionspreise-online.de. The response of booksellers and customers is overwhelming. The number of users is already greater than expected. “We think that Book Auctions Online will soon be indispensable for the rare book trade,” says VDA president Eberhard Köstler. “Book Auctions Online has a big advantage. An innovative database, extensive search options and unabridged descriptions of the items are the right answers to the weak points of the well-known price records.”
Based on the every day experience of its members the VDA has intended to realize the idea of a new database: Book Auctions Online. Primarily it has been conceived for the antiquarian booksellers to simplify the research of auction prices without losing quality: The database will offer quick and precise results. Besides that Book Auctions Online will be open to institutions and private collectors, for a higher price. Libraries, archives or collectors can use the database for 450 euros per annum, members of some other smaller German bookseller associations receive the user password for only 200 euros per annum – as do the ILAB affiliates.
Thanks to ILAB president Michael Steinbach: “Membership in an organisation like the ILAB or its national associations should be profitable. And of course, ILAB affiliates should benefit from the cheap prices for organized book dealers.” Moreover: “I am sure that Book Auctions Online will be very useful for all ILAB affiliates, all over the world.” Michael Steinbach will introduce Book Auctions Online in Madrid during the ILAB congress from 8th to 11th September 2008. Together with Eberhard Köstler, who has pushed the project from the idea to its realisation, it was decided that the database can be used by all ILAB affiliates from this July on for the reduced price of 200 euros. This is an important step. It proves that cooperation in times of globalisation and the omnipresence of the internet is inevitable – in the rare book business, and everywhere.
Prices and registration
€ 200 per annum for all members of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB)
€ 450 per annum for libraries, archives, museums, other institutions and private collectors
€ Multi-user versions – upon request
Please send your registration form to the VDA, then you will get a password to enter Book Auctions Online.
Verband Deutscher Antiquare e.V.
D-56459 Elbingen, Germany
phone: +49 (0)6436 909147
fax: +49 (0)6435 909148
You will find more information in a flyer published by the VDA or on the internet:
www.auktionspreise-online.de and www.antiquare.de
Oak Knoll Honored with the 2008 APHA Institutional Award
Our congratulations to ILAB immediate past-president Bob Fleck and his staff at Oak Knoll, who were honored with the 2008 American Printing History Association (APHA) Institutional Award for “a distinguished contribution to the study, recording, preservation or dissemination of printing history, in any specific area or in general terms.” Well deserved!
Corrections and Apologies
In the previous issue of the Newsletter, the caption on the photograph of the Hong Kong Book Fair organizers misidentifies one of those pictured as Mr. Christopher Li. The person in the photograph is Mr. Mitsuo Nitta’s grandson.
ILAB Newsletter 60 Addendum
Madrid, September 2008
It is a daunting and challenging honour to become the President of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. The twenty-first it seems. Does that magic figure mean that ILAB has come of age? It certainly should given the hard work of previous Presidents and Committees. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my predecessors for helping to make ILAB what it is today: an international organisation of 20 National Associations representing over 30 Nations and nearly 2,000 affiliates. So where are we now and what are the challenges of the future?
Thanks to the initiative of President of Honour, Bob Fleck and the work of Michael Steinbach, the generosity of the Breslauer Foundation and several Associations and affiliates, the Bibliography Prize now has a secure future. Michael Steinbach’s strong, calm leadership over the past two years has been an inspiration. He was responsible for saving the Spanish Congress and Book Fair for 2008 where he worked closely with Gonzalo Pontes to create an event that we will all remember. ILAB owes him a great debt for his hard work over his time as President.
The ILAB database has over 600 dealers. At a time when Amazon has bought ABE the importance of our Internet presence is becoming more and more crucial. We have developed strong links with CINOA, the International Art and Antiques Federation, and anticipate future collaboration with them on issues that jointly affect us. Along with new initiatives to make the life of the book thief more difficult around the world, we aim to raise our global profile and build links with relevant international agencies. In response to the feedback from our Presidents and affiliates, the Congress in Madrid was the first to conform to a less time consuming programme and was a great success.
ILAB booksellers currently face huge business challenges on a daily basis. In the early days of ILAB most cities and towns had a used bookshop with an ‘upstairs room’ where the antiquarian books were kept. The supply of both books and customers seemed limitless. Sixty years on and things could not be more different. Rising rents and fewer good books have driven most shops out of central locations. Many decry the aging population of collectors and dealers and I’ve heard it allied to the decline in educational standards around the world. Whether or not this is a misconception, we need to rise to these challenges and get the message about ILAB out with more force. There are new customers out there and with the huge growth of Russia, China, India and the other emerging countries ILAB must seize these new opportunities. Last year Hong Kong laid the foundations for a possible Chinese Association as well as a possible pan-Asian organization. We have made approaches to booksellers in Russia and South America and our website reflects our desire to engage these countries more fully. Rockingstone has been hugely helpful in all of this and we have much to be grateful to them for.
In order to serve our members and affiliates well in these interesting times we need them to understand just what ILAB is and what it isn’t, what it can do and what it can’t. In Madrid Alan Shelley, President of the ABA, headed a workshop on this theme. Out of it we should understand better just what the affiliates’ concerns are and what we can do to address them. Many don’t realise that it is the Presidents of the National Associations who are supposed to drive the agenda, and that the job of the ILAB Committee is to make that agenda happen. Constantly wanting to replace Rockingstone and saying ‘why doesn’t ILAB do something’ just won’t do. We need constructive feedback and good ideas. The affiliates need to make us aware of problems and other discontent. The route is through the Presidents and the National Committees. Hopefully, as a result of Madrid the lines of communication will improve. ILAB is a collaborative venture and works best when operated as such. In brief, the ILAB Committee is the servant of the National Associations as represented by their Presidents. It is the task of the Presidents to forward the opinions, concerns, criticisms, and ideas of their affiliates to the ILAB Committee for action or answer. It really is as simple as that. Sadly, through misunderstanding, there are those who view ILAB almost as the enemy or as irrelevant to their business, and constantly attack it and its structures. One way to change this misperception is to become more involved. To this end it was wonderful to see a contested election for the vacant places on the ILAB Committee this year. The candidates were all strong contenders and it was regrettable that they couldn’t all be elected.
One of the biggest areas of controversy is the database. We have been truly blessed having had Rockingstone’s collaboration for the past eight years. All who meet Jelle Samshuijzen come away converted and convinced that he has ILAB’s best interests at heart. However, seldom has a year gone by without a new National Association challenging the basis or execution of what Jelle does for us or how he does it. We need to explain Rockingstone’s relationship with ILAB better in order to calm what is often a debilitating and repetitive debate. The world of the Internet is changing and will ever do so. An independent ILAB website and search engine is our best hope for meeting these changes and where possible, taking advantage of them. One has only to compare the top 10 sales for ABE vs ILAB for 2006 and 2007 to see that ILAB towers over ABE in terms of the quality of sales, the trust that the buying public has in the professionalism of our members, and the quality of our inventory.
As you are aware Rockingstone have resigned with effect from December 2009. They remain good friends of the ILAB and wish to tender for any new contracts. With this in mind the ILAB database is secure and remains at the fore-front of our Internet thinking. Affiliates need to take no action, other than to continue supporting and promoting the site, as any changeover will be smooth and well organised. The ABAA is exploring exciting new possibilities and we are watching with interest and being kept informed. The web and the marketplace are certainly changing and for this reason we have set up, for the first time, an internet subcommittee. It is headed by Tom Congalton, backed by the expertise of Dan Gregory. It consists of Jean Pierre Fouques (France), Christian Westergard (Denmark), Michael Graves Johnston (Great Britain), Marcus Benz (Switzerland), and Peter Tinslay (Australia) as well as a representative from Japan. With such a strong team we know that the strength of the ILAB website can be built on for the good of our affiliates.
So, finally, here’s the challenge: we the Committee have started to communicate with you, the affiliates, more directly. Tom Congalton and Dan Gregory have done a wonderful job in getting the Newsletter out more frequently. There is an ever increasing accumulation of useful information and links on the website. In order to have a more effective ILAB, it is for you to become more involved with your National Association, participate in the decision-making process and let them know what you would like to see happen. If you help us to help you, we can all look forward to the next 60 years with the expectation of confidence and prosperity.