Borders

Go read This | Tough deal – The Bookseller

Lovely piece by Jude Rogers in The Bookseller that illustrates exactly how much the industry has changed over the last decade or so. Really worth considering:

Take what happened to us in 2007. Before then, we would hand-deliver 340 copies of every issue of Smoke to Malcolm Hopkins, the wonderful magazine buyer at Borders Oxford Street. He shelved them well, and every one would sell—a good return for both parties. But then we received a letter from Borders head office saying that, in future, branches would not accept deliveries direct from publishers; we would need to use a “recognised distributor” instead. Malcolm left, and the last issue we’d hand-delivered was left in the storeroom; over half came back as returns.

This was at a time when our sales were increasing elsewhere. And what a grim irony it was that Borders went bust not long after its approach became so impersonal.

via Tough deal | The Bookseller.

Go Read This | Will Independent Bookstores Seize the Day? « INVERSO

Intrigued by this article:

Even if a substantial majority, say sixty percent, of the supply gap is captured by Amazon, B&N, or by a conversion to digital reading, there remain tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars of annual book sales up for grabs in towns like Southbury scattered across the United States. Our own ongoing consumer research, conducted by Verso Digital, provides additional reason for optimism. The data consistently point to a hybrid print and e-book market that will persist for decades. E-reader owners who classify as avid readers ten or more books bought per year are splitting their purchases between print and e-books in nearly identical numbers. Moreover, there is a sizable majority of readers, over 70%, who express strong resistance to the idea of screen-reading as a substitute for print, a percentage that has remained steady across multiple surveys over the past two years. The resistance is strongest among older 45-plus readers, who already account for more than two-thirds of the consumer books purchased in this country. As these readers downshift into retirement or more flexible work-leisure lifestyles, their proportion of the book market is likely to increase, further making the case for print’s durability.

via Will Independent Bookstores Seize the Day? « INVERSO.

Quick Link | Bye, Bye, Borders? – Megan McArdle – Business – The Atlantic

It remains my view, as I have written before, that closure of bookshops will mean that the very good one (and the lucky) will survive. Borders will be missed if it goes, of that there is no doubt, but because it goes, some independents will survive.

This is when the communitarians start looking for a government rule that will make it harder for people to buy books online; the environmentalists complain about all the energy wasted on shipping; and the moderate nostalgists start urging people to support their local bookstore.  But I’ll go by a combination of revealed preference and introspection:  the world may be better off without Borders, even though I (and everyone else who has stopped shopping there) likes the idea of its existence.

The communitarians will argue that this is market triumphalism–that losing bookstores we like is simply a collective action problem. This is theoretically possible, but there’s little evidence of it outside of thought experiments.  After all, if I could personally save Borders by hauling my carcass down to the store once a week, instead of shopping at Amazon, would I?  The sad answer is, probably not.  After all, I never go there.  What would I be saving it for?

And it’s not just that I’m lazy, though there is that.  The bigger problem is that while Borders lets me find things I’m not looking for, Amazon always lets me find the things that I am.  In the good old days of local bookstores, I frequently went without books that I knew I wanted, because it was such a pain in the butt to order them.  Now if I know I want to read a book, I can do so in short order.  Ultimately, this is a bigger boon than the occasional undiscovered gem–particularly since there are still libraries.

via Bye, Bye, Borders? – Megan McArdle – Business – The Atlantic.

Go Read This | Brillig: Borders, Post-Mortem

Excellent post this!

You may notice that none of the changes all these CEOs were doing sped up the supply chain. Even after Borders put in a reorder for a backlist book, it would still take two to four times as long for that book to make its way back to the store shelf. It could still be weeks after a book sold before the reorder was even placed. There were some efforts made by the sf/fantasy buyer in 2006 to rationalize the sf/f section so that A stores had a full A range selection thus doing away with some of the weird gaps that had developed over the years, but this didn’t help much at the D or E store range to reduce the overall inconsistency of the brand.

via Brillig: Borders, Post-Mortem.

Quick Link:Borders Group Launches E-Bookstore With Titles Provided by Kobo – WSJ.com

It seems to me that a price war sparked by Borders is the least likely outcome, but perhaps I’m missing something!

For consumers, the entrance of Borders into the e-book marketplace may mean lower prices on some titles. Although five of the six major book publishers have converted to an “agency” pricing model, setting their own retail prices, Bertelsmann AG’s Random House publishing group and many smaller publishers still employ the traditional wholesale model—meaning Borders could choose to discount some titles aggressively from these publishers in a bid to drive traffic to its website.

via Borders Group Launches E-Bookstore With Titles Provided by Kobo – WSJ.com.

PS: Searching for a good nae for these link posts. I think in future I’ll hold off on Go Read This except for great posts, but Quick Links or Link Post seems a bit lame all the same!

The Publishing Recession

Eoin Purcell

Troubled Times
There is little point denying it, we are in the middle of some big changes in global publishing. It’s moments like this that remind you why working and living in what some might see as backwater, has its advantages. That said we are not immune to it here either.

The Irish Story
Sales have been a bit sluggish and while we need only €12 million in sales over the next three weeks to match 2007 figures (that’s a target of just over €152million sales according to Bookscan) there are only two pre-christmas weeks left and while volume is boyant, average selling price is taking a hammering in the last few weeks.

The Publishing Crunch
It is not just that many of the largest American publishers have decided to lay off staff (there are SoManyStoriesIJustDon’tKnowWhichOneToPick). Even Newspaper companies chimed in with bad news Tribune Co. went into bankruptcy and New York Times Co. announced that they would mortgage their office block to reduce debt. There is a real sense that publishing is entering some kind of crisis.

Is There Any Good News?
The New York Times pointedto the strong year that Hachette has had in the US but paired that story with the uttery depressing tale of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt which is depressing enough on its own.

So Just What IS Going On?
For perhaps the most coherent explanation of what kicked the US element of this off, read this post by moonrat over at the Editorial Ass blog:

In October, bookstores returned so many books that most publishing companies had more coming into them than going out of them. For some companies, the incoming number was more than several months’ outgoing.

Although bookstores are suffering (and how), it was the publishing houses that had to absorb the cost of this cash flow creator. This is why Impetus, a relatively new indie company without the history to survive this shock, folded. Some houses lost so much money in returns in October that profits from the entire rest of 2008 have been negated.

Where Does This Leave Us?
Publishing cautiously is the only answer I have. It’s a bad time for small publishers and mid-list authors. Bizarrely new or debut authors might just have a punt, acquiring new authors tends to be cheaper and if the work is right, marketing it can be easier too. That makes sense in a poor market, just as publishing known entities with solid histories does. I’ll add some more thoughts when I have them!

Refreshed from my Chicago trip but only defrosting now!
Eoin