Monday, January 10, 2011

Books Without Borders?

Happy 2011, mes auteurs, and a big thank you to all the guest posters from the last seven days. You guys rock.

But alas and alack, faithful readers, it's not all sunshine and lollipops in the land of publishing. As you by now surely know, Borders is (still) in trouble.

On the last day of 2010, BGP announced it would be delaying payments to vendors (i.e. not paying publishers for books). This caused some publishers to stop shipping them books, and Borders' stock tumbled (insofar as one can tumble from under a dollar per share) as a result. After a low of $0.83/share, it's trading at heavy volume at a shaky $0.88/share. Borders' market capitalization hasn't budged much from $60 million (that's "million" with an "m"). For reference, Barnes & Nobles' (BKS) is $930 million and Amazon's (AMZN) is $82 billion ($82 thousand million).

After two top executives resigned, Borders management traveled to New York City for a meeting with major vendors, which (one assumes) included the Big Six publishers that comprise Borders' largest source of books (and therefore income). Borders is apparently asking publishers to convert delayed payments into interest-bearing debt while simultaneously trying to renegotiate their loans with GE Capital and Jefferies Group. In short: they're out of cash and trying to find a way to keep the doors open and the lights on.

With staff apparently being advised to seek employment elsewhere, however, I don't think that's going to be much longer. In my opinion, Borders will be lucky to survive the month, much less the first quarter. They're strapped for cash and straining their relationships with suppliers, and it would be the understatement of the year (granted, it's early yet) to say they're poorly positioned for the ongoing digital shift in publishing: their website is inferior to their competitors', their continous couponing and deep discounts don't seem to be slowing the decline in their sales, and without a dedicated e-reader, they're nowhere near in league with the Kindle or the Nook.

That said, gentle readers, I'm afraid (barring divine intervention or acquisition by another company) Borders is more or less finished. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and (to a lesser extent) Apple will be left to determine the future of publishing when the dust from BGP's fall clears. I can only hope some of those empty storefronts become independent book stores.

What about you, meine Autoren? How would the demise of Borders affect you and your reading habits?

32 comments:

  1. I'm surprised Borders has lasted as long as they have; it seems every post I read about them is heralding their imminent demise. It's a shame, as they used to be my favorite bookstore. The one closest to me hasn't had a great selection for two years, forcing me to go elsewhere if I want a particular book without a huge wait. When I went to visit family for Christmas, though, the Borders nearest them had great stock and I was able to find most everything I wanted. It reminded me of the old days and made me miss how it used to be. I liked having two major book chains (Borders and B&N) nearby to give each other a little competition.

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  2. I don't know that I've ever shopped at a Borders. Their demise won't affect me directly, but it remains to be seen how it will affect the market overall.

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  3. I think it would definitely prove a substantial loss to the romance world because of Borders strong support...specifically Sue Grimshaw's allegiance to the genre. It also leaves the majority of consumers with only two vendors for books. B&N and Amazon. That billion figure for Amazon seems a bit misleading because they sell a lot more than just books. Still the vast distance between Borders and the other two shows that not even the smaller book chains can survive easily in this climate. It's a shame that Mom and Pop stores are being put out of business. It limits consumer choice and lack of competition means the inability to find reasonable pricing. Sort of like Microsoft owning the market in software. The incentive for innovation is lacking. Will be interesting to see how it all plays out. I hope they survive, but the outlook looks particularly grim.

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  4. I'd hope to see customers realize that what they care about in a physical bookstore are knowledgeable staff and focused selection... two needs that are fantastically filled by small, indie bookstores!

    For all the mass-market and deep-discount filler, amazon.com does a terrific job of keeping things in stock and shipping quickly, all without the smell of lingering streetbums that my local borders suffers from.

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  5. Well...Borders is the bookstore I usually stop at so, I guess I'd have to go to the Barnes and Noble across the street. Not that much bigger of a leap, I've gotta say. This will effect my dreams of getting a summer job as a bookstore cashier, though. Less options if there's only one major store.

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  6. Joshua Blimes just wrote an interesting retrospective of Borders over the decades. I found it incredibly enlightening.

    I actually like Borders' website. They used to just tag onto Amazon, and when they finally rolled out their own, I was impressed. First efforts usually fall flat. B&N's website is a little overcrowded and their search database doesn't always function the way it's supposed to.


    Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and (to a lesser extent) Apple

    While I hate to promote the cult of Apple, be careful to dismiss Apple as an equal player. While the majority of market goes to the Kindle, the majority of that is read on an iPad with a Kindle app and not the kindle itself. Enhanced ebooks are pursuing color solutions, and primarily, a means of presenting content on the iPad. While Amazon may control the book sales, they don't control the platform. This a pretty big ace up Apple's sleeve.

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  7. Joseph makes an extremely valid point. You have to wonder how long Apple will let the kindle dominate the ebook market...

    It's only a matter of time until they pull the plug on that.

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  8. Borders is my favorite, and it makes me really sad to think I'm going to have to go to Barnes and Noble. :(

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  9. Any failed enterprise affects the whole framework.

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  10. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Borders, though I mostly used the store for buying magazines and drinking coffee. It was a great place to browse through all the current titles. I hope they manage to survive but it looks like the end is near.

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  11. As concerned as I am about the demise of Borders, I can't say that I will be sad to see it go. I went to buy a book there last week as a show of solidarity but was greatly disappointed in their selection. They were well stocked on the NYT bestsellers and recent releases, but little else. To me, a bookstore, especially a major one like Borders, should be willing and able to stock the books that maybe don't fly off the shelves but appeal to nitch buyers.

    Am I too idealistic? Have I been spoiled by Amazon's endless supply? Probably both. But I'm unimpressed with Borders' effort to save themselves.

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  12. I've never shopped at Borders. I buy about 80% of my books at indie stores, 15% at Amazon, and the rest at Barnes & Noble.

    It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out. Personally, I hope the fall of Borders gives rise to more indies.

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  13. I've never shopped at Borders. Not even once. I've been inside their stores though - they are not very well organized and sell cracker jack packages next to their picture books.

    I don't like them, but... it will be sad to see a major player go.

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  14. Personally, I love my Indie bookstores and do what I can to keep them alive. Borders, have shopped at also. I can see the future will be more of e-books and on-line but then I'll miss going into a shop and browsing. Libraries, please STAY!! Who remembers the "Twilight" when the the world crashed and one man was survived with his books and then...

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  15. I only shop at Borders as it's basically my home away from home. I hang out in the cafe, knit, buy books and magazines there, and have been a customer at this particular location since they opened over ten years ago. I know all the staff and they treat me very well. There would be no joy in Mudville if our local Borders closed.

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  16. I would be extremely depressed if Borders closes. I buy all my books at borders. Seriosuly, whenever I go, I buy over a hundred dollars of books. I hate B&N. I don't like their stores, and they're inconveniently located for me. The one closest is in an ugly little one-floor mall place, and it doesn't have close to the same feel as the lovely Borders store I shop at.

    I also don't like buying books from Amazon. Just no. They have a bigger selection because they can ship your order, while Borders has to have the book in stock to sell it to you right from the store. But I can't browse as well on Amazon, and those "Also bought" things help me not a bit. I'd be perfectly happy to shop at a large independent store if there were one near me, but there is not.

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  17. Quite some time ago, one of my publishers stopped dealing with Borders. It made things tough on the author end of things, but certainly makes it less of a surprise that things have gone this far.

    Since there's no Borders nearby (and the nearest B&N is about 40 miles away), I don't frequent bookstores that often. Thank goodness for the Internet, and my NOOKcolor!

    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

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  18. The future of Borders says more about the change in retail than in books. The competition for the reader is still the same but changed location and form. Google hopes to fill the independent store role. Apple sees books like the old drugstore where as a child I found my books in the spinner rack by the register. Amazon wants to be WalMart. Barnes & Noble wants to be Barnes and Noble.

    The fight remains. But with the agency model and the price is the same where ever you buy the book, does it matter?

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  19. Though I'm an author and an avid reader, oddly enough my first experience with our local Borders was as a musician. They gave my band our first gig. Compared to what we do now, it was atrocious, but many of the folks who were there that day still come to see us years later.

    I liked the cafe better than B & N's, and the staff were more helpful. Sad.

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  20. I use my local library these days, rather than buy books, space and income demands... so there'll be no immediate personal impact on me, but in the grander scheme of things.... One less outlet means there's one less competitor out there, and that's not a good thing at all.

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  21. Yet more upset in the publishing industry? what's this world coming to?

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  22. Honestly, I very rarely buy books nowadays, and the only thing I do at Border's is walk around to decompress from the aggravation of the day.

    That being said, all I hope is that they stay afloat long enough for the c.d. that I ordered from their website with a gift card will be delivered to the store within a few weeks so that I can pick it up.

    Then they could drop six feet under and join the choir invisibule.

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  23. I can't help but wonder how the indie bookstores are reacting to this news. Are they celebrating having one less giant corporation to which to lose business, or are the giants not the main thing effecting their sales models at this point?

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  24. Borders is my favorite book store along with Vroman's in Pasadena and Mrs. Nelsons Toys and Books in La Verne...this is sad...and I just purchased the Borders Rewards Plus card...for a year for 40 percent discount on books...etc.

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  25. This is such sad news!

    Though I'm all for the independent bookstore idea, I hate the thought of my still-thriving local Borders shutting down. It was from that Borders that I fed my new-found hunger for reading when I was eight.

    Borders, I will stay by your bedside till the end.

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  26. I am very sad that Borders will be gone, as I have always preferred it to B&N and I have so many wonderful memories of the place. When I was growing up it was a place of promise and wonder - the biggest bookstore within thirty minutes of home - and I couldn't have survived adolescence without it.

    But it's all nostalgia. The closest Borders to me is a good hour, hour and a half away, and I just don't go often. When I do go I find that the selection is not the magical wonderland of books I remember, nor is the iced Chai from the coffee shop what it used to be. So it isn't as though the close will affect me. But I'm still saddened by it. I always hoped that one day I would be able to find a Borders that lived up to those old expectations, but apparently that is not to be.

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  27. Well, if Borders does finally kick the bucket, I'll end up doing most of my book shopping online. Every other bookstore within a reasonable distance that isn't a used bookstore or a comic shop closed quite some time ago except for the B&N, which is rather small compared to every other B&N I've ever been in and I can rarely, if ever, find anything which appeals at the local B&N. Local Borders may have been going to pot in recent years but at least they kept good material in stock.

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  28. It would crush me if Borders disappeared. Plain and simple. I love my local Borders. I love Borders online. I love my Borders Bucks and all the coupons I get every week.

    Seriously. I'd be utterly crushed if all of that was taken away.

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  29. Although I have always shopped at B&N due to location, I mourn the loss of Borders on principle.

    I do read ebooks sometimes, but only ones provided to me for review that way. I love the feel of an actual book in my hands, turning the pages, and flipping back and forth from one section to another with ease. Losing large blocks of bookstores like this makes me afraid for the future of printed books themselves.

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  30. I will be very sad if Borders closes its doors - I love my local Borders store. It's on my way home from work to the Metro (subway - I live in Washington, DC) and I stop in at least twice a week. The staff there knows me by face, and some even know me by name, so it's almost like an independent bookstore experience. Plus, they always have great coupons, and I love shopping on their website, too.

    My local store is always busy - much more so than the local B&N, so from our local perspective it would seem that Borders is far more successful, but I guess that doesn't translate across the country. If Borders closes, I will have to resort to B&N, and I don't care for that option at all.

    I will be very upset. I will cry. A lot.

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  31. It was an honour to work for Borders, unfortunately for me the UK company was sold shortly after I was hired and oportunities were squandered despite the hard work put in in turning the shops around and starting to make a profit. It was my dream job and I enjoyed it immensely and resented the way it ended where we all tuped over to W H Smith and treated like idiots despite our greater experience and knowledge. It seems that is the future: bargain books and no choice or specialisation and staff on minimum pay.

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