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Is Baker & Taylor Too Important to Fail?

According to this morning’s ShelfAwareness, Baker & Taylor is identified as a company at high risk of default or bankruptcy. Other than Ingram, B&T serves as the primary distributor of books in the U.S. and the world. B&T apparently has a high debt load.

As can be seen by the Anderson News fiasco, a distributing company that defaults or goes bankrupt in this climate can have very negative consequences on the publishing market. Assuming that B&T’s major creditors are the publishing houses, will the publishing houses have an incentive to prop up B&T until it can work its way out of its financial doldrums?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Sherry Thomas
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 10:31:36

    Oh, @#$%.

  2. SonomaLass
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 12:17:00

    What Sherry said.

  3. ME
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 13:25:10

    Yeah, ditto what Sherri said. Un freaking real.

  4. Ann Bruce
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 17:36:11

    No corporation is too big to fail. Interfering with corporate Darwinism will only prop up failures and prolong the pain.

  5. Ann Bruce
    Mar 24, 2009 @ 18:00:10

    Missed this part initially:

    Other than Ingram, B&T serves as the primary distributor of books in the U.S. and the world.

    So, they’re part of a “duopoly” and still couldn’t turn enough of a profit to operate without over-leveraging themselves?

  6. Terri Pray
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 01:43:42

    Went to take a look at the Shelfawareness site, but it appears to be out of action. If you have other links to this situation, I’d appreciate it.

  7. Corrine
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 04:30:27

    Okay… I’m now shaky and my heart is pounding. I WORK for Baker & Taylor, for their library services department. And this is the first I’m hearing of it. In fact, my family has worked for B&T since the 70’s, my cousin works here in IL with me, and my aunt is a supervisor in the GA service center. One would think that this is info that the company would share with their employees.

  8. Jane
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 07:25:55

    @Corrine Here are the links to the situation referenced in Shelf Awareness: (a tiny portion that is available suggest 165 million of debt).
    This is the long list of companies Moody’s thinks is in trouble:

  9. Corrine
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 10:27:34

    Thanks, Jane.

    We’re supposed to be receiving an internal response today.

  10. Mel
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 11:27:12

    Well, poopie. The library system I work for almost exclusively uses B&T. If something were to happen to the company, it would fundamentally change the way we acquire books. I can’t imagine the impact on publishing as a whole.

    Corrine, I hope you get good news!

  11. Corrine
    Mar 26, 2009 @ 07:08:12

    Mel, the way it sounds, if they do cut back parts of the distributions, library services (my dept.) won’t be touched, so hopefully you won’t be affected.

  12. Mel
    Mar 26, 2009 @ 11:56:52

    That’s good news for me, but better news for you, Corrine. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for everybody over there.

  13. MAL, MNN
    Apr 01, 2009 @ 09:18:59

    B&T also has record companies (cds) and major movie studios (dvd) as suppliers. they won’t be as welling to work with B&T, as entertainment companies sell most of the product directly to the big retailers. for the majors, B&T wouldn’ be missed!

  14. Theresa
    Apr 03, 2009 @ 10:48:33

    There are plenty of regional and independent book distributors still doing quite well including Big River Distribution based in St. Louis. I believe they handle books for the Middle of the Country States such as IL, AR, MO, KS, NB, IA, and OK that libraries can turn to.

  15. Dr. David Demers
    May 18, 2009 @ 20:32:14

    We are a small independent publisher who sells books through Baker & Taylor as well as through other wholesalers. B&T owes us about $7,000 and is tardy on paying about half of that amount for 60 days or more. We stopped shipping to Baker & Taylor today. My sense is that they haven’t paid because they are about to go bankrupt. If we are not paid in two weeks, I will post another message and let you know what is happening. -Dave Demers, Marquette Books

  16. Jane
    May 18, 2009 @ 22:20:36

    @Dr. David Demers: That’s horrible news. It’s always the small companies that are hurt the most in these circumstances.

  17. Evangeline
    May 19, 2009 @ 00:26:08

    Where will this leave brick and mortar stores? Is this news why Scribd has turned itself into a store? Or why Amazon is trying its damnedest to become a book-buying behemoth? My fingers tap against one another with interest in the coming months.

  18. Susan Lindquist
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 18:51:53

    I, too, work for a small, independent publisher. While B&T doesn’t owe us $7,000 like Marquette Books, they do have past due invoices from us that date back to 2008. Recently I contacted a Sr. VP at B&T and all he did was send me back to the same poor A/P employees who are unable to help! That’s not a good sign.

  19. Dr. David Demers
    Jun 25, 2009 @ 08:25:15

    This is a follow-up on a previous comment I posted to this site. At that time, Baker & Taylor was late in paying our company. After I sent them a notice that we were halting all shipments to B&T, I received a personal call from the B&T accounting department, and since then it has been paying its bills. -Dr. David Demers, Marquette Books

  20. Sam
    Oct 18, 2009 @ 19:42:53

    Does anyone have any other recent news on B&T? Our bookstore is looking into an agreement with them and was just wondering if it’s as reasonable as it appears.

  21. James E. Neal
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 08:11:59

    Do You have an update on the financial status of Baker & Taylor Company?

  22. Jane
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 08:17:22

    @James E. Neal: They must be doing okay. The recently acquired Blackwell Book Services North America (BNA) and Blackwell's Australia-based James Bennett bookseller.

    As part of the deal, Blackwell U.K. will acquire Baker & Taylor's Lindsay and Croft business in the U.K.

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