Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Authors without Borders

The Borders superscale bookstore chain is being liquidated because of a lack of potential bidders willing to participate in a bankruptcy auction for the company. This will eliminate a major distribution mechanism for highly promoted books from major publishers. It will have little effect on the offerings of small presses and POD publishers, because Borders paid scant attention to them. I once did an experiment where I looked up my books successfully on Borders' online bookstore, and then I went into one of their stores and tried to find my books through an in-store terminal. I was very surprised when I couldn't find them. The two systems must have had separate management. Borders drove a lot of local independent bookstores out of business. They also presented the public with their concept of a bookstore as being more like a cross between a department store and a library, with a cafeteria thrown in for good measure. Gone were the crowded bookshelves and tables where you might stumble across a treasure. Added were music departments and toys and accessories that had little to do with books. The most enthusiastic book buyers I have ever seen patronized the old annual Brandeis Used Book Sales, when that university's alums wisely supported their school in that manner. Used print books are treasures, and they also stimulate the reading habits of those who find old friends and new discoveries among the dense arrays of well-thumbed volumes. Independent bookstores offering unusual books from independent publishers and authors may find more patrons now that one of the giant marketers is gone.

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