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So long, Borders

According to PW, Borders has suspended payments to some publishers.

At this point it looks as though Borders has no way to avoid bankruptcy, and the big question is whether they will take a bunch of publishers down with them. Small presses are especially vulnerable here, and Borders has been very hard on the whole small press scene for years, using credit from returns to order books on a much faster schedule than they actually paid for books sold.

As for Borders itself, it was once a great place to buy books–the staff were knowledgeable and the selection excellent, and while Joshua Bilmes offers a clear narrative of Borders’s descent into crappiness (quick warning about that link: very interesting), he doesn’t mention that the stores tried to control sky-rocketing rents by locking in long-term leases… right before the economy collapsed. Now their expenses are high and the revenues are low, and who’s going to suffer?

Well, authors for one. And publishers for another. Readers, too, because if we have one major chain store, as Joshua Bilmes points out, there will be certain books that readers won’t even get to see. Months and months ago, James Nicoll asked who was the most powerful but unrecognized person in sf/f, and the answer was the sf/f buyer at B&N. Without Borders, his decisions will sustain or destroy even more writers’ careers.

Hey, I know people like to see this stuff as the “Death of Traditional Publishing.” Isn’t B&N also closing stores (in high-rent areas, during a strained economic recovery)? But that’s just not the case here. Borders has been struggling for years, mainly because their upper echelons have no idea that selling books isn’t like selling other products. The economic crash simply exposed these long-term problems.

What does that mean for you? Well, if Borders isn’t paying publishers for the books they sell, you might want to stop shopping there. I know I will.

Mirrored from Twenty Palaces. You can comment here or there.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 3rd, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised Borders lasted this long. They stopped publicly trading two years ago already.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC)
I really liked shopping there, but yikes.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)
Ahem: that's a slightly alarmist perspective. Borders aren't defaulting on payments, they're delaying them strategically to improve their quarterly balance sheet.

Which is admittedly dire, and doing something this public is a sign that they're in bad trouble, but they're not automatically bankrupt yet. Although they will be if everyone stops shopping there.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
Alarmism is my life.

I don't know how much longer Border can continue the way they are. Their rents are out of control, their online business pretty much non-existent, and their stores are failing. They're not filing chapter 11 yet, but if they're not paying authors and publishers it's probably already too late.

And I have about 100 people reading what I post on a good day. I don't think Borders has much to fear from me.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 07:27 pm (UTC)
Borders announced delaying payments about a year ago as well and the managed to weather the storm back then, so don't count them out. I expected them to file bankruptcy about 18 months ago, but they managed to essentially find an angel to help them continue.

Several years ago, I commented that Stephen Pagel was the most powerful name in science fiction. At the time, few people had heard of him, but he was the B&N SF buyer back in the early 90s before he left to found Meisha Merlin.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 10:06 pm (UTC)
I can't help but wonder how they're hanging on, and I have a hard time imagining them hanging on after so many bad decisions and awful publicity.

I'd rather they made, it, though.
Jan. 5th, 2011 03:41 am (UTC)
I'm glad I have you to keep me on top of these things.
Jan. 5th, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
My pleasure.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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  • 14 Jan 2019, 21:47
    Oh, yeah, excellent point.
  • 14 Jan 2019, 21:46
    Oh yeah. Like the lawyers who get obvious really venal criminals off because it makes their success rate look good. But those are not the ones I am referring to in meaning well. These guys are mixed…
  • 14 Jan 2019, 20:37
    This reminds me of the time my wife was injured and the insurance guy handling her case did everything possible to deny and stall the payment. We had to put her surgery on a credit card because this…
  • 14 Jan 2019, 19:24
    The creepiest part is that some of them are actually well meaning.
  • 14 Jan 2019, 19:08
    Yeah. It's godawful what people will do when they have authority and no fear about using it.
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