Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hear That? It's the Other Shoe Dropping

So, it's now all but official that the Borders chain of bookstores will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and that upwards of 250 retail locations in the United States will close their doors in the coming weeks and months.

According to several sources, and most notably in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, the bookseller has given up on its efforts to refinance and to secure loans from outside companies.

From all reports, it seems like the retail giant was in too deep, and their debts were staggering. There was a brief period of hope, as GE recently became interested in keeping Borders afloat, but that fell through, and now the Michgan-based company has no place left to turn.

While filing for bankruptcy doesn't always mean The End of All Things (Marvel Comics did it back in the 90s), in this case...it pretty much means The End of All Things.

And while it will be bad for me--both personally (I love bookstores!) and professionally (I am still in this wacky publishing industry, you know)--this announcement means a lot more bad news for a lot of people.

First and foremost, thousands of jobs are going to be cut as a result of this, and a lot of good people will be left looking for work in this exceedingly difficult job market.

I've always said that working is retail is one of the toughest things to do, and working at a big bookstore is certainly at the top of that Tough Things to Do list. Especially at the big stores, where questions like, "What do you think my dad will like?" are heard on an almost daily basis.

Additionally, the publishing industry itself will be affected by this, obviously, as Borders has been responsible for a large percentage of overall book sales.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble have seen stock prices jump in reaction to this week's reports, but let's be realistic here when it comes to B&N. Brick-and-mortar book stores are in trouble. Lots of it. And Amazon is the main reason why.

Now, clearly, Barnes & Noble has been much, much more savvy in terms of their anticipation of digital product and their attempts at creating an online alternative to Amazon with their Web store. They've obviously done a better job than anyone else in their efforts to maintain the relevancy of a shop.

Still, I wouldn't be surprised if we're having a very similar discussion about them in a couple of years. Publishing in general is a scary place to be, but at least publishers can rely on digital press to keep their books going.

For publishers, content rules.

For retail stores? Paper rules.

I hate to think that the bookstore--the bookstore, for goodness sakes!--will go the way of the five and dime, or Saturday morning cartoons, and become this nostalgic thing from our childhoods.

Because that's just too depressing to think about.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Most of my favorite childhood memories around books take place in libraries or used book stores, all of which are fortunately still there or have moved to bigger/newer locations. We never really had a Borders until relatively recently. It was convenient, but usually didn't have anything I wanted.