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Monday Midday Links: Bookstore Outlet Looks Grim

Last week, Borders UK was forced into administration due to its outstanding debt.   Borders US is a separate corporate entity but does own a small percentage of the UK Borders.   Causes of Borders UK decline include internet competition from Amazon.uk and ebooks.    Borders UK reported  £13.6m in pre-tax losses in 2008.   Publishers are concerned with their stock.   The Independent notes that a pre holiday liquidation sale of stock at Borders UK could result in losses for other bookstores such as Waterstones or WH Smith.

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Speaking of bookselling in the UK, the Guardian has a write up about how Waterstones has killed the small bookstore combined with the collapse of the Net Book Agreement which allowed retailers to agree not to discount books.   The artificially high pricing allowed publishers to subsidize the printing of important but less well selling books by the income earned off bestsellers.   (This is still the primary way that publishers run their business with 20% of the titles supporting the remaining 80%).   Waterstones is facing stiff competition from Amazon because the latter has no physical retail expenses.   The article further wonders whether Waterstones is hastening its own demise by selling ebooks.   (Thanks Dr. Vivanco for the link)

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Teleread links to the weekly On the Media radio show which talked about the rising volume of books released in the U.S. annually, about a half million.   With the rise of the digital market and the ease of entry, the volume of books pressed on the reader will be overwhelming.   Effective filtering and curation will be a valuable resource in the evolving market.

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The nook is sold out at Barnes and Noble.   Any pre Christmas purchase of the nook will have to take place via a third party like eBay with you, the consumer, paying a super premium price for the holiday delivery of the electronic reading device.   Mike Elgan, of Computerworld, suggests that you just wait.   I agree.   2010 will see the launch of inexpensive netbook tablets, Android based web tablets and use of reflective LCD shipping from Pixel Qi.   And, possibly, the Apple Tablet.

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iPhone owners (and this presumably includes iTouch owners as well) consume more digital media, including digital books, than the average user.

While only 30% of the entire population would download an ebook and 29% would buy a digital magazine, 42% of iPhone users will buy ebooks and 38% are up for reading digital magazines.

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

13 Comments

  1. Caligi
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 14:10:46

    Am I the only one who could give a fuck about the Apple tablet?

    I feel like everyone in ebook blogland is frothing at the mouth for this thing, and I don’t get why. LCD touchscreen = glare and eyestrain. I don’t see how this is going to be an ebook killer app. I’m not interested in long term reading on a screen like that.

  2. Sayuri
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 14:50:56

    I work (or used to work as of 24th Dec) for Borders Uk and I can tell you that while Amazon and the deep discounting of supermarkets did effect our trade to a certain degree, the biggest contribution to our downfall was piss-poor Senoir Management. Philip Downer (who was fired form the Director’s position of Borders once before) and his merry bad of cohorts, systematically tore down this strong buisness model from day one. Poor judgement calls, and a inventory system that was so bad, we had to have 4 store stoctakes in 12 months and was almost completely unsuable. (You know it’s bad when you have to use Amazon to search for book titles for a customer.) A reduction of our range, budget cuts for children’s dept, payroll cuts and an arrogance bordering on meglomania (he’s been know to have full blown tantrums during store visits…) and it all stacks up. And the 13.8 million we lost in 2008? 10 million of that was on the new system and computer equipment that was utterley, utterly innappropriate for the job. I mean, what company byus a system for a bookstore and you can’t even do a search by author?? or title? only ISBNs……

    To say I’m bitter would be an understatement. And now the company who is in charge of our ‘administration’ is an arm of the company that bought us out in August. How can that be legal? I thought ‘Administrators’ were supposed to be impartial.

    We’ve been ignored and flat-out lied to for the last 4 months and they still continue….it’s a travesty.

    *takes deep breath* Ooookay. I got that off my chest.

    Chek out the many threads on Bookseller to see how happy we all are. It’s supremely fustating to have to find out your going to lose your job from an online magzine…….

  3. MaryK
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 15:41:29

    I’ve been waiting for the Pixel Qi screens.

  4. Evangeline
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 16:00:16

    Ouch…isn’t Borders on the chopping block as well? Last I read, they had a significant amount of debt that was to be called in on April of next year.

  5. Sherry Thomas
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 18:03:14

    Thanks, Sayuri. It’s always interesting–if at times dismaying–to hear the insider account.

    Best of luck to you.

  6. Jessica G.
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 20:16:31

    Wow, that’s sad to hear Sayuri. I worked for Borders US (at Waldenbooks) and I still support them. I enjoy going to their stores. Unfortunately, in an effort to save money, they are closing all of the Waldenbooks in my area, including the one I used to work at. In some of the articles I’ve read about Borders US it sounds like it had the same management issues that the UK had.

    Still love their rewards though (although I miss the Preferred Reader card), and took advantage of their Buy one get one 60% off online sale today (with free shipping over $10 orders!).

    On another note, I’m quite gleeful that the nook is sold out, because now my friend will have to get a Sony! Muahahahaha!

  7. library addict
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 20:33:25

    Sorry to hear that, Sayuri.

    Like Jessica I took advantage of that 60% offer and free shipping today, but I too miss the old Preferred Reader card program. One thing I was really surprised about when I was browsing the site today, is there are lot of DVDs that retail for less on Borders.com than Amazon. But I bought books – LOL.

    I hope Borders manages a comeback somehow on both sides of the Atlantic.

    And I am not as techy as many folks so had no clue about these Pixel Qi screens

    These screens rival the best epaper displays on the market today but in addition have video refresh and fully saturated color.

    The main reason I wanted a Sony Reader was for the eInk sceen and the lack of eyestrain. But cost is still THE prohibitive feature. And the Apple Tablet and such may be multi-functional, but from what I understand they will also be even more expensive.

  8. DS
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 06:36:33

    @Jessica G.: When Borders opened one of their big stores at our mall they closed all of the local Waldenbooks. I used to be a devoted buyer at Waldenbooks because of the Preferred Reader Card, but when the new Borders opened without a loyalty program they pushed me totally into the arms of internet buying when it came to new books/movies/music. Their current program is too little too late because I never go to the mall any more. I did all my Christmas shopping this weekend on the computer.

  9. Jayne
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 08:12:37

    @DS: I’m totally with you, DS. Used to be a loyal customer at the Waldenbooks store near me, loved their sales and discounts but when that store closed…that was it as far as I was concerned. It’s too far to drive to the nearest Borders and from what I’ve heard from many sources, one can’t be sure that any books one wants would even be there. Sad, really.

  10. CD
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 09:13:32

    Sayuri – best of luck to you. Sounds like a nightmare working there… However, it’s a huge pity for me at least. Borders was good because it was the only high street chain that stocked American books AND opened until 10pm… Granted, its selection wasn’t the best and, as you mentioned, it was sometimes difficult to find a specific book you wanted. However, it was great for late evening browsing.

  11. mina kelly
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 10:07:17

    I’m going to miss the Borders where I live. It’s just a much nicer shop than the Waterstones, who I haven’t liked much since they fired that blogger. Waterstones have no need to take it over, since their current repmises are about the same size and just as central; since they own Ottakars and Borders UK own Books etc, I don’t think we’ll see another bookshop on that site. We’re not short of independents round here, but most of them are pretty narrow in focus and they’re nearly all absolutely tiny (not that I don’t love a bookshop where I can touch opposite walls at the same time, but it does rather limit what they can stock!). Plus, Borders was the only place in the city open after 5pm!

    So, yes, I’m going to miss Borders. I knew Borders US was in trouble, but I hadn’t realised Borders UK was even more so. From what Sayuri has said (and from what I’ve heard elsewhere, and from other employees) it’s not really surprising. You can’t sell books like fruit and veg; it’s not just the industry that doesn’t work that way, but the customers too.

  12. Jane
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 11:34:24

    Sayuri – what a nightmare. It sounds like it was terrible management all around. It’s terrible to a) hear of the news from an internet site and b) have to be job hunting around Christmas time. I hope that this will open a window to better things for you.

  13. Update… oops | Solelyfictional
    Dec 06, 2009 @ 08:37:39

    […] I’ve been watching the Harlequin/DellArte debacle with interest, and shall be sharing thoughts on it soon. I’ve also been watching Borders UK go under – it’s one of my favourite shops, but from the rumours floating around about management I’m not entirely surprised it’s died on its feet. I’ve taken advantage of the sale to get a copy of Larousse Gastronomique, but I’m not looking forward to when it’s gone. I’ve had issues with Waterstones since they fired that blogger, and though I’m very appreciative of my city’s thriving indepedent bookshops, a lot of them are specialist or niche, and rarely have what I’m looking for. Though since most of my recent purchases have been from the Oxfam bookshop, I suppose I can’t complain too much – as far as the Borders management are concerned it’s people like me who drove them under, rather than their own attitudes to marketing and the fact they spent massive amounts of money on a database that would search by ISBN but not title o…. […]

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