Border’s Books files chapter 11
Foreword Magazine, the leading publishing trade magazine in the US, recently asked me to comment on the Border’s Chapter 11 announcement. They wanted to know what I thought about it and if I might have the opinion of someone who would say “good riddance” because of their deleterious effects on the small indie book stores. The following is my response.
I would never say good riddance to a company which sold or offered our products to consumers. Yes, that’s a very personal and selfish standpoint as a publisher. However it doesn’t even take into effect my more general distress with hearing about a once successful company collapsing under the weight of an economy which seems poised for catastrophic failure. Nobody I know is having a great time of it. If you have a job or a company you are making due with less and less every day. Competition is fierce and everyone is pushed to the edge.
The fact is this bankruptcy is the result of Amazon starving them out of business, just as Border’s and Barnes and Noble starved the small local stores out of business. It’s the evolution of this industry and it is changing quickly.
The real issue here is what is going to happen when B&N finally gives up? When there is no longer a “big box” store one can reliably visit and expect to find a good selection of books? A wide selection is precisely the reason why the big chains were successful to begin with, that and the discounts they were able to get through volume and pass along to the consumer—that was until Amazon came on the scene!
Will there be a resurgence of the small book stores? I doubt it. Most likely B&N will eventually reduce their retail “brick and mortar” presence to only the most profitable stores and then devote serious energy to compete online but they are way, way behind now. Like any “Johny Come Lately” they can only hope to gain less than 40% of the online retail market. It’s been proven time and time again with Coke / Pepsi, McDonald’s / Burger King, Toyota / Nissan, you get the idea…
Less competition means Amazon will be able to dictate what authors and publishers can earn. The effects of an ‘Amazon only’ book buying option for many indie publishers is already being felt. While Amazon has opened the market to a lot of small indie publishers like myself, nibbling at our offerings and allowing us to survive, they could at any moment take our hand off! There has been some push-back yes, and Amazon, being wary of bad publicity, has moved to quell fears by changing things like their commission on e-books. Though I think that move was once again a calculated play to starve competition, gain control of market share, and subsequently assert ownership of the e-book market—they have a big head-start.
Sadly, Border’s Chapter 11 filing isn’t good news for the publishing industry.