No more Borders to cross


Yikes, I’m behind on everything, including this half-finished post, which has been sitting in my dashboard for over a week.

The ABA calls the Borders liquidation “unfortunate right-sizing.” What I know is that it was a long time coming. Sure, it’s easy to blame the failure of the chain on the economic crunch–a helluva lot of struggling businesses have failed–but Borders has been circling the drain for a long time.

Now, I realize as well as anyone that a huge company with thousands of employees will have people with ready complaints, but Borders was a special case. They had a revolving door of MBA corporate heads that didn’t know squat about selling books. They moved too late on ebooks and then stupidly hitched their wagons to Endless, endless fuck ups.

The sad thing is that they were once a terrific store.

Now they’re in liquidation. What does that mean for readers and authors in general? This NPR article by Rachel Syme gives a good rundown.

What does it mean for me in particular? Well, not that I’ll be picking up some books at a steep discount. Here’s what it comes down to: Borders ordered quite a few of my Twenty Palaces titles. Now that they’re gone my print runs will be that much smaller. Of course the numbers weren’t fantastic anyway, despite the “Best of the year” listings and good reviews. And they’re mass market originals at a time when mass market paperback sales are in the crapper.

Will ebook sales pick up the slack? It would be nice to think so, but I have a wait-and-see attitude. Okay, that’s not completely true; I have a pessimistic attitude, but I recognize my pessimism and try my best to counter it. Still, the loss of so much shelf space for selling books–and the announcement that B&N will be following Borders’s lead by reducing book stock in favor of non-book merchandise–is painful.

Anyway, I have a great book to read, some story-thinking to do (I need to come up with a new project to obsess over), and festival food to lunch on. The Twenty Palaces series certainly isn’t dead, but it’s a tough time for everyone. And there’s always the option for me to self-publish in the series, if that becomes necessary (I hope it doesn’t).

4 thoughts on “No more Borders to cross

  1. I’m not exactly sure what to say here. Personally I’m sorry to see Borders go as I spent a lot of time and a ridiculous part of my paycheck every two weeks there, sometimes all of it. I am however taking the opportunity to fill in some missing sections of my personal collection and pick up a few new books at these somewhat nice discounts. Hopefully I’ll manage to get a lot more if the discounts ever get down to 60%.

    But I think what really irks me, and I have to admit that this is in part because of my dislike of e-books in comparison to physical copies(prefer paperbacks but hardbacks are acceptable), is that bookstores seem to be less about selling books these days and more about selling CD’s, DVD’s, board games(that aren’t book related), and childrens toys. I can live with the idea of barristas and a selection of finger foods for those people who choose to purchase a book and then relax in that environment. But why on earth is a bookstore selling Lego toys, and not Harry Potter Lego sets at that, that I might have understood.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s kind of nice to walk in the door and see a little variety, something surprising that you didn’t expect, but at what point does it stop being a bookstore and turn into the magazine rack at Wal-Mart? And yes, some items that might be more at home in a hobby/card/specialty shop, such as multi-sided die, character sheets, all stuff for pen and paper guidebooks, those I can appreciate the reasoning that put them there. For example, the Dresden Files RPG guidebooks, they are a gaming universe built on a book series, makes sense to me to see them in a bookstore. But sometimes I walk into a place like Borders, and to a lesser degree Barnes & Noble, and expect to see everything from strollers, to pieces of furniture from IKEA on sale next to the rack of newly released fiction.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m just set in my ways and unable to understand or appreciate the evolving marketplace. I’m not really that old, but I get the urge to start talking about simpler times when you went to the grocery store and bought food and not tires. When you could go to an electronics store and get that new video game you pre-ordered, and not pick up your prescription drugs at the next counter. Who knows, but I’ve said my piece, and should probably stop before I think of something else.

  2. I suspect the problem (and this is my own guesswork only, not based on personal experience) is that non-book properties are not only nicely profitable on a per-unit basis, they’re easy to order and stock.

    For ex, a number of people say they browse bookstores to find what they want, then order online to get a great price. That means steeper discounts at stores to hold onto those customers.

    Also, Legos are a single widget, if you get my meaning. They’re one thing that people might want to pick up for their kids or whatever. If you’re in the market for Legos, the only limits are price and whether you already have them.

    Books are a thousand different things. A big chain bookstore will have umpteen books in it, but a person walking in to buy one might pass up all but two or three in search of what they want. Selling books is idiosyncratic. Selling impulse gift purchases not so much.

  3. I get what you’re saying, I just sometimes feel like I’m in a minority in expecting a store to carry what it built for, no more, no less.

    As to the comment about online purchases, I like to go the bookstore, I like to walk around with my head tilted at an angle glancing at covers and spines looking for something that jumps out at me and says read my jacket, maybe I’ll be interesting. It’s how I find a lot of my new stuff when I can’t think of recommendations people have given me. Only time I really purchase online, is for pre-orders, and that’s strictly for something like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, I pre-order the new one once a year when it comes out, and at the same time I pick up any new volumes of the Negima manga I follow that I missed over the last year. This has the dual purpose of filling two parts of my collection, and ensuring I get free shipping. My only problem with pre-orders is that up until this year, when I ordered the new Dresden book, even with free shipping, it was shipped to arrive on the release date, this year however it was not shipped until the release, not really a big deal, it arrived two days later, but it made me sad.

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