Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Friday Midday Links: More bookstore closings

I’ve been a little lax with the link round up. My excuse is that I was at Tools of Change in New York this past week. This is true but what is also true is that I stayed up late at night talking with friends and eating really good food (at restaurants that all started with the letter “B”, strange but true) when I could have been blogging. I figured you would all forgive me though. I actually have a draft entitled “Valentine’s Day links” but obviously that never went anywhere.

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Obviously we know that Borders filed for reorganization on Wednesday which allows them to liquidate some assets and discharge (or get rid of) their debt. According to this article on Publishers’ Weekly, the liquidation sale will begin at the 200 stores to be closed. Happy President’s day. Go out and get yourself some good deals.

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Barnes and Noble has announced that members won’t be able to use their discount online anymore. Only in store purchases will be eligible for the 10% off. Last year was the first year that our membership did not pay off for us and we decided not to renew our membership for this year. I am extra glad of that now.

The Everyday Member Discount is only valid on eligible purchases at any Barnes & Noble Store. The Everyday Member Discount is not available on purchases of the following: products or services at www.bn.com, at retail stores owned or operated by or websites affiliated with Barnes & Noble College Bookstores, Gift Cards; Online Gift Certificates; digital content (including but not limited to digital books, magazines, and periodicals); nookâ„ ¢ and related accessories; other hardware and electronics; software; downloadable audiobooks in MP3 or any other format; gift-wrapping fees; shipping and handling fees; or Membership fees (new or renewal).

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As was reported by the commenters and by several who emailed me, Borders in Australia (unrelated to the US Borders chain) is also filing for bankruptcy but this sounds like liquidation and not reorganization. I asked one Australian reader what she thought that cause was and the answer was price. Most Aussies know about Book Depository and it’s almost a no brainer to pay only $7.99 for a book instead of $12.99 for the same title but from a local bookstore. Amazon UK announced it will also be shipping free to Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa until May 15, 2011.

Speaking of Amazon, it is being a bad neighbor. Texas sent a tax bill to Amazon of over $200 million based upon purchases made by Texas residents. The basis for this tax bill is Amazon’s PHYSICAL presence in the state. They have a warehouse/fulfillment distribution center in Texas. Amazon’s response? They are packing up their toys and leaving. That is really shitty, Amazon.

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Macmillan has launched a new romance community site called Heroes and Heartbreakers. There are a number of blog posts about things other than romance books but it is designed to be a place where romance fans can gather.

Heroes and Heartbreakers (H&H) brings together original stories, pre-release excerpts, blog posts, giveaways and more in a publisher-neutral environment, which means romance content from all publishers, imprints and authors will be featured on the site.

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Patricia Briggs, a favorite author of the Dear Author reviewers (and readers), is going on tour. Briggs’ rarely does this so here is a list of her signing appearances.

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Harlequin cleverly announced that they are going to patent the kiss and put together a website for readers to create their perfect kiss. Of course, they can’t but it generated a ton of news and links and even Kim Kardashian designed her own kiss. I tried, but all my kisses were considered too naughty. (Sorry, but what is the point if you can’t place them in naughty positions). There is one man and one woman but you can definitely choose to place two men or two women in the kissing or *cough* other positions.

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Hachette is promotionally pricing some of their older digital books and the pricing is good through the end of the month:

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

44 Comments

  1. Debra
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 10:44:34

    The issue I have with Barns and Noble is they don;t have some of the books I want, and with my local Borders closing I may have no choice but to go to Barns & Noble. Lets hope that if they are going to change to the rules on their cards that they start getting some of the book I get on line in the store. That is why I loved my Borders, they have a kick ass romance section. My Barns and Noble doesn’t.

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  2. The Octopus Gallery
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 10:54:33

    @Debra: It really must come down to individual stores because I’ve gone to my local Borders three times in the last six months to pick up a new release because I had a coupon there and they didn’t have the books. The B&N across the road did.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve had my membership for less than a year, but I don’t remember them offering an extra 10% off the website. However, the free express shipping on any order is really nice and the coupons I get generally make my orders on par or less than what I’d pay at Amazon.

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  3. jmc
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 11:27:55

    I read somewhere that the governor of Texas said he disagreed with the comptroller sending that tax bill…of course, that may have been his public position after Amazon announced it was pulling up stakes.

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  4. Mari
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 11:28:42

    Yeah, it is shitty for Amazon to just pack up and leave, rather, than OBEY the LAW. I feel bad for all the people who will loose their jobs because of the move. BUT. This is a business and to stay in business they are entitled to do what they gotta do to maximize their profit, or go the way of o I dunno….Borders anyone? Its a tough market out there for booksellers and 200 million is ALOT of money. Plus I am sure this is a move many of their shareholders support.If they continue to do the great job (andI mean it sincerely) of supplying me with hard to find books, and this move helps them to stay in business and do that….well, what can I say. Its a business, not a charity.

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  5. Kerry Allen
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 11:46:37

    My B&N membership has only been getting me a 1-2% discount on paper books ordered online since, oh, April 2010, and they also cut WAY down on the “% off 1 item” emails, so basically my last membership charge was a $25 privilege-for-shopping-with-us surcharge. They won’t get me into their poorly stocked stores. All they’ve done is drive me to Amazon, where every fourth book is free, without a membership fee, with free shipping kicking in before I put half my usual size order in the cart.

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  6. Sandra
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 12:20:14

    I’ve had a B&N card for a number of years, and it really paid off when buying textbooks for grad school. But I probably won’t renew either. I’m rarely in a store, since the nearest is 30 miles from my house and I do most of my shopping with them online. More and more, that means e-books, which never allowed use of the membership discount.

    Last year, they started promoting all on-line print purchases with the 10% member discount, whether you were a member or not. They also dropped the $25 minimum purchase for free shipping. So, why pay for the membership, when they’re giving the benefits away to all and sundry?

    The one thing I really wanted to use my discount for was a nook, and naturally that’s one of the things that has always been exempted.

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  7. bb
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 12:21:59

    re: B&N. If you’re having trouble with desired books not being in stock, but don’t want to order online, call ahead and have them order it in. And then you still get the membership discount.

    re: Amazon. Have to disagree here. Shame on Texas for not anticipating Amazon’s response. I’m sure there’s more to both sides of the story, but things get complicated with businesses operating in multiple states. If Texas (or any other state) didn’t negotiate which tax laws would be followed, billing a business after the fact is problematic.

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  8. Lindsey
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 12:33:19

    It’s wonderful that Patricia Briggs is doing a tour, though I’m sad her stop in Oregon is in the middle of the week, since I probably can’t make it up to Portland for the night. Still, it’s an awesome thing she’s doing. :)

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  9. Rexe
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 12:45:00

    Note about B&N’s policy. This has been in effect for quite a while now. They actually lowered their online prices so everybody gets the member discount. Now with the member card you get free express shipping online.

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  10. Keishon
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 12:52:18

    Texas sent a tax bill to Amazon of over $200 million based upon purchases made by Texas residents. The basis for this tax bill is Amazon's PHYSICAL presence in the state. They have a warehouse/fulfillment distribution center in Texas. Amazon's response? They are packing up their toys and leaving. That is really shitty, Amazon.///

    Oh, I agree. The job lost behind all of this…

    Also, thanks for the heads up about B&N membership restrictions. I won’t be renewing mine. I rarely if ever shop at bookstores anymore so it never really paid off for me like it used to. Have a good weekend.

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  11. Darlynne
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 12:54:16

    I always thought the determination of whether taxes are charged is if the company had a physical RETAIL presence in a state. Amazon has a distribution center in Reno as well, but it’s not a place anyone can buy from, which doesn’t fit my idea of brick and mortar. Apparently I am wrong, although sales tax is not charged on Amazon purchases here.

    It’s one thing if, from the start, Amazon went into business in Texas with the clear intention of not paying required sales tax. I have a hard time believing that any company would set up a facility, however, and not discuss the subject of sales tax with the local taxing body, especially if the expectations of each don’t align.

    Pulling out of an established business is a huge deal for all parties and, as some other news articles allege, Texas has yet to say how they arrived at that amount. I am by no means an Amazon apologist–far from it–and I’m a tax-and-spend Democrat, but something about this whole story makes no sense.

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  12. Darlynne
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 12:58:24

    On the other hand, yay! about Patricia Briggs’ touring schedule, which puts her in Reno in August. We don’t get [i]any[/i] authors and this is big, squee-worthy news for me.

    ReplyReply

  13. Tweets that mention Friday Midday Links: More bookstore closings | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 13:04:45

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by rissatoo, dearauthor. dearauthor said: NewPost: Friday Midday Links: http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2011/02/18/friday-midday-links-5/ [...]

  14. Lada
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 13:23:33

    @Rexe:

    I’ve never noticed a lower price point for their books online vs in store. I gave up my B&N membership last year when I found out it didn’t include a discount on ebooks which are priced the same as mass market. That membership discount (& the coupons) is what had kept me a loyal B&N customer for years despite some sketchy customer service. I’m glad my iThing opens up the market for me.

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  15. Janine
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 13:26:00

    @Sandra:

    Re. Barnes & Noble

    Last year, they started promoting all on-line print purchases with the 10% member discount, whether you were a member or not. They also dropped the $25 minimum purchase for free shipping. So, why pay for the membership, when they're giving the benefits away to all and sundry?

    Good point but the free express shipping is still really enticing to me, especially now that it’s available on small orders too. I don’t purchase many print books these days but on the occasions that I do it is so nice to get them fast without paying shipping charges.

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  16. library addict
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 13:53:23

    I’m going out to Borders today to see what’s on clearence (if anything). I will be very sad when the store closes.

    I plan to still buy from Borders on-line and hope they stay in business. Plus I have their Rewards Plus card.

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  17. fairyfreak
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 14:02:59

    From what I hear (albeit 2nd or 3rd hand) Texas has refused to say how they came up with the tax bill for Amazon. I wouldn’t pay an unjustified number either, especially one that big with a debatable law definition of what constitutes a presence in the state (whereby they have to tax the residents).

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  18. Annie
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 14:49:05

    Wow, thanks for the heads up about Barnes & Noble. My membership is up for renewal at the end of March. I feel bad about it, but I’m not going renew this year.

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  19. Isobel Carr
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 15:17:00

    Before TX can make that bill stick, they're going to have to show that a distribution center (rather than a retail store) qualifies as a “physical presence” under their tax laws . . . and I'm willing to bet that it doesn't (of course we are talking about a state that allows you to claim residence based merely on maintaining a PO box there, so maybe I'm wrong).

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  20. Sandra
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 15:39:33

    Before TX can make that bill stick, they're going to have to show that a distribution center (rather than a retail store) qualifies as a “physical presence” under their tax laws . .

    More and more states are looking for revenue wherever they can. Nexus is becoming much more encompassing, with physical presence being broadly interpreted. I haven’t read the specifics of the dispute, so won’t comment on that, but I find it hard to believe that Amazon established a distribution center without first knowing what their tax obligations would be.

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  21. Tasha
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 15:42:29

    Okay. I’m not a lawyer, but as far as I know there’s a fundamental misunderstanding about how sales taxes work for online retailers.

    Amazon customers are not exempt from paying local sales taxes. However, if Amazon does not have a physical presence, it is exempted from having to collect the taxes and remit them to the state. The upshot is that the sales taxes are incurred but not paid. I mean, how many of you guys figure out the appropriate sales tax and pay it yourselves when Amazon doesn’t ask you for it? From what I’ve seen, most people think that if you buy online, there just isn’t any sales tax. And that’s incorrect. It’s just that you’re supposed to pay it voluntarily without the retailer having to collect it.

    So it seems to me that the states have a choice to make: they can demand that Amazon turn over a customer list, so the states can collect the taxes themselves; the states can enact laws requiring online retailers to collect the sales taxes for them (which the courts may well uphold now that ecommerce is thriving); or the states can do nothing and lose out on tax revenue because they can’t figure out a way to collect it from online retailers / customers.

    But the states in which Amazon has physical operations can go after Amazon for the taxes due them, and I don’t guess I see why that’s such a bad thing. Seems to me they’ve got an unfair advantage as a result of customers thinking they’re saving money on taxes, when the actuality is that customers are evading taxes they should be paying themselves.

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  22. sarah mayberry
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 15:55:24

    Re: borders closing in Australia. The news has just broken that customers holding gift cards (and that’s a lot of people, since christmas has just been and gone) have to redeem TWICE the amount of the certificate to have their certificate honored. ie – got a gift card for $50? You gotta spend $100 to be able to use it. There were so many angry people at stores this morning that in some places security had to be called. Account-y type people are pointing out that once a business is in receivership, its the receivers who call the shots and that gift card holders are essentially creditors in this situation. They say that getting paid out 50 cents in the dollar is a creditors wet dream. There is also an alternative option for gift certificate holders to put their names down as an ordinary creditor and wait in line to see what can be salvaged and what will be honored once the receivers have done their thing. I tell you, it’s going to make me think twice about buying gift cards/certificates as gifts from now on.

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  23. whey
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 16:48:02

    Funny, I was thinking that was a pretty shitty thing of Texas to do, not Amazon.

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  24. Ridley
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 17:23:13

    I’d say it depends on the state. In MA our sales tax is technically a use tax. So if we buy a car in NH, we have to pay 6.25% tax in MA before we can register and drive it. So, even though Amazon et al don’t collect sales taxes from us, we technically owe them to the Commonwealth. There’s a spot for it on the MA state tax form, though I doubt I’m the only person who pays it no mind. It’s just a lot harder for MA to track Amazon orders than car purchases.

    As for trying to collect taxes owed, MA tried to collect from a CT tire retail chain for sales to MA residents and a court told them to GTFO.

    It’s tough out here, since sales tax free NH is a 45 min drive from Boston yet the sales tax funds a number of things metro Boston couldn’t live without, like mass transit. I don’t blame states for trying to collect taxes owed, but they have to do it consistently. No one, individual or business, is going to pay taxes voluntarily. States need a transparent and consistent sales tax collection policy.

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  25. Kerry D.
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 18:42:43

    @sarah mayberry: I am SO glad we took our 7 year old to spend his birthday Whitcoulls voucher (NZ store owned by same people as Aus/NZ Borders and part of the same situation) last weekend.

    We needed to buy a book for my BIL’s birthday today, so went to Whitcoulls. There are printed signs on the windows about the situation and gift card policy. My husband did say to the woman at the counter that he assumed they wouldn’t be giving him an exchange card and she agreed with him.

    So double on gift vouchers and trying to avoid every exchange they can.

    The thing is though, as we tried to find one book on a list from SIL, there were hardly any to choose from and the mass market paperback we chose was NZ$27.95 (that’s about US$20 for a MMPB!). As I said to my husband, if we as consumers contributed to their demise, this is why. The prices are outrageous and the selection is pathetically poor.

    So yes, I’m one of those people who orders paper books from overseas or buys ebooks. If you don’t supply my needs I won’t shop with you.

    Totally sucks for the people who work for the stores though. They have my complete sympathy.

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  26. library addict
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 19:38:46

    Just FYI, at Borders today and there were signs everywhere that that they could no longer accept Borders coupons. I was told by the clerk that this was a new rule applicable for all of the stores closing.

    The clerk then took my coupon and applied it anyway :P

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  27. donna ann
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 19:52:18

    RE: Amazon & Texas — general tax rule: if a business has a location (any type) in the state, has employees working in a state (wether at their own location, a 3rd party site, even out of their own home or even regularly traveling into the state for sales, service etc) on a regular & consistant basis they have nexus in that state and are subject to laws of doing business in that state including all taxes (including sales tax). I’m not familiar with the specifics of TX sales tax laws, but generally speaking if they had a warehouse there (physical presence) & employees working there then they should have known to collect sales tax for orders shipped to TX. They have been around long enough & are big enough to be aware of this issue. Question becomes how the bill was calculated. Is a general, you haven’t file so we think you owe (in which case they can go back with actual numbers to the state) or was an audit done. It is on the taxpayer to prove the bill is wrong.

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  28. CupK8
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 22:50:04

    Wow, yet another reason not to switch to B&N when my Borders closes. The closest B&N *is* a Uni B&N, so that’s where I’m most likely to shop, other than online. Sorry, B&N. You can keep your membership. I’ll continue to shop at Borders online, or Amazon for my book needs.

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  29. Jane
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 23:08:58

    @donna ann That was my understanding of the tax law – just nexus within the state (ie. why pubs have to collect taxes on ebooks now that Agency pricing has kicked in).

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  30. DeeCee
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 00:09:29

    I’m really bummed about BN. I let my membership lapse last year (when they stopped allowing coupons on pr-eorders) and based on all the amazing Christmas discounts I rejoined. What a waste of $25. I get a better discount on the new releases from Hastings.

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  31. Kaetrin
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 00:56:19

    Ouch! I have a gift card from Borders Australia that I got for Christmas – it’s only $20 but I guess I’ll have to buy something for $40 to use it – or not use it at all. That doesn’t seem fair at all – they’ve already had the money after all.

    @ Jane – the difference between a MMP in Borders Australia (for example) and the Book Depository is actually much higher. $8.00 at The Book Depository equates to about $20 at Borders AUS.

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  32. Kaetrin
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 01:13:30

    I’ve just looked on Borders AUS website and they’re not accepting gift cards at all online anymore (where the prices are better) – they have to be redeemed in store and only if you pay at least the same amount in cash/charge. There’s a letter from the administrator too. http://www.borders.com.au/uploads/c6a0730c-cad1-ed14-1d41-c60c11d20609.pdf
    I sent them an email telling them that they suck. Grrr.

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  33. Sally
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 04:27:27

    @library addict: Haha, what’s with your cashier?

    I think the reason they’re not supposed to accept Borders coupon is because the coupon doesn’t apply to sale items. And since everything in the store is discounted…

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  34. library addict
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 09:38:07

    @Sally:
    Well, the liquidation sale had not started as of yesterday at the store I go to. They said maybe Sunday, but weren’t sure.

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  35. brooksse
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 12:06:59

    Texas is also a use tax state, so what is not collected by Amazon as sales taxes is the responsibility of the state’s residents and businesses to pay in use taxes. But with no state income tax, I doubt that very many residents are paying use taxes. (The businesses are probably paying use taxes on their purchases.)

    As I understand it, the state waited 5 years before presenting a tax bill (from December 2005 thru 2009). Amazon’s position is the facility is part of a subsidiary and they aren’t collecting sales taxes because they consider the facility to be a separate business entity from their retail business.

    Considering Amazon’s stance and the timing of the tax bill, I’m inclined to think the state initially agreed with Amazon about not collecting sales taxes (in exchange for opening the facility and bringing jobs to the state) but changed their minds when faced with a budget shortfall. Bad timing on the state’s part since Amazon was planning to expand the facility.

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  36. Barbara
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 15:31:49

    I went to the the Borders that was closing here today (we have another one that’s staying open). Most things were 20% off, some were 30%. Since our other store was staying open, it looked like they shifted a ton of clearance stuff over and that was 10% off, as were all the newer releases.

    The place was a madhouse, but I attribute some of it to the massive demonstrations that are going on not far away (it’s the store that’s closing not too far from the capital – I’m in Madison WI – Sarah Palin’s supposed to be here today and Jesse Jackson’s holed up somewhere). There are a ton of people in town.

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  37. Sandra
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 15:45:53

    Considering Amazon's stance and the timing of the tax bill, I'm inclined to think the state initially agreed with Amazon about not collecting sales taxes

    Not necessarily. It could have been a scheduled audit. Florida audits all businesses for SALT on a 3-5 year rotating basis; Texas probably has a similar schedule. If that’s the case, a large part of that $289M could be penalties and interest, which Amazon could negotiate down if they tried hard enough.

    As far as nexus, both sides are probably relying on Quill v. ND, and it comes down to what Texas considers physical presence. Amazon’s lawyers probably need to read up on SC vs. Geoffrey, as well. Toys-R-Us placed all their intellectual property, such as trademarks, in a subsidiary to avoid taxes. The courts disagreed — the parent company was still liable for state taxes, because the parent had nexus. These were excise taxes, but I’ve seen Geoffrey cited in SALT cases.

    Disclaimer: IANAL, but I’ve spent a number of years dealing with multi-state sales and use tax. I know more about SUT than I ever wanted to know. Every state has their own set of laws, and none of them are simple.

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  38. sula
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 15:57:41

    Went to Borders today (our is on the list to be axed) and there was an insane amount of people in line to buy books that are so far only 20% off. I needed to get a gift anyways, and took the opportunity to also grab a couple of romance novels that were in stock. It probably took 30-40 minutes to get through the line to the register. Sad to see the place close because we are a small town and the only competition (besides Walmart, which I will never set foot in) is BAM, which I dislike. I guess it’s Amazon for me now.

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  39. GrowlyCub
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 16:24:45

    @sula:

    “I guess it's Amazon for me now.”

    I’ve seen several ppl say that. What I don’t quite understand is why? If you bought at Borders, why not order from Borders.com now?

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  40. orannia
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 20:29:19

    Amazon UK announced it will also be shipping free to Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa until May 15, 2011.

    Thank you so much for the heads up! Usually the shipping costs as much again as the books!

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  41. orannia
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 21:51:19

    And just read this very interesting comment about book prices here in New Zealand in a New Zealand Herald article (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10707308&ref=twitter):

    In 2010, 9.67 million books were sold, an increase of 1.2 per cent in volume but 0.1 per cent down in value against 2009. This was despite the mark-up on books in New Zealand, which saw paperbacks sold for as much as $20 more than online, even after shipping costs.

    *speechless*

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  42. library addict
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 22:47:22

    Went to my Borders again today for the sale and the parking lot was packed. Every time I shopped there in the past 3 years it’s been busy, but this was like nowhere-to-park busy!

    Books were only 20% off, but I bought a few as well as some calendars, blank journals, etc. Non-book items were all 30/40% off. The clerk said if they sell a lot the first few days, the store would probably close much sooner as they would just ship whatever doesn’t sell to a liquidation centre. I was just at the store yesterday and though they still have plenty of stock, some shelves and display areas were already bare.

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  43. CupK8
    Feb 20, 2011 @ 11:09:32

    @GrowlyCub:

    I shopped at Borders for several reasons. I wanted to support their physical store in my town, I enjoyed browsing through the possibilities, and I wanted to get the book in my hand that day. If I’m going to order online, I can find better deals at Amazon, and I already have an Amazon student account that gets me free 2-day shipping until this August. So that’s my personal reasons why.

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  44. Stumbling Over Chaos :: It’s a beautiful day for some linkity, don’t you agree?
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 19:26:24

    [...] linkity from Dear Author and [...]

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