Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Borders Is Jilted at the Altar

So it is all going to end with an embarrassing whimper as Borders Books is left standing at the altar all alone, wondering why the handsome love of its life did not show up to formalize the relationship that would have made both of them so happy?

How terribly sad that is - and I say that as someone who has not purchased a book from Borders in at least five years.  Even though I only visited a Borders Bookstore two or three times a year, I suspect that I will miss them more than I ever imagined I might.  Think about it for a second.

Suddenly, Barnes & Noble has no real neighborhood, on the ground, competition.  Simple economic theory tells me that cannot be a good thing for the consumer, nor for the landlords all across the country that get stuck holding all of that empty square-footage of empty retail space.  It is certainly a bummer for almost 11,000 Borders employees who will soon be joining the long, long unemployment line.  (Not a whole lot more than 11,000 jobs were created in the whole country last month - losing 11,000 of them in one swoop has to have the President, if he's paying attention, frowning a little bit tonight.)

But, you're right.  That kind of thing (except for maybe the B&N reaction to the demise of so much competition) doesn't really impact most of us directly.  So think about it another way:

Miles and miles of bookshelf space are gone.  Publishers have lost a major market for their books, and shoppers have lost another place to browse through the thousands of books they would have never heard of, or seen, if not for those bookshelves.  Say what you want, but book-browsing on the internet, no matter what e-bookstore one patronizes, is a poor substitute for flipping through the pages, of book after book, that grab your attention as you wander the aisles of a good-sized bookstore.  Imagine, if you can, how many more books are going to slip through the cracks now.

Does that mean that publishers will take fewer risks than ever with new authors?  Does it mean fewer titles published each year?  Does it mean less choice for you, the reader?  Will publishers lay off thousands of their own workers now, those they needed to service the demand provided by Borders?  Does it mean that bestseller lists will become even more embarrassing than they already are?  Yes, to all of the above.

Short-term winner is probably Barnes & Noble.  Longer-term, it is more likely to be Amazon.com, a company that seems more and more destined to become the only major bookstore owner left in the country, if not the world.

What a terrible day for book-lovers everywhere.

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