Publishing Industry Turning Itself Inside-out

Borders announced this week it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A statement from management said they did not have enough capital to continue as a viable competitor in the industry.

This doesn’t mean all the Borders stores will be closing their doors, as far as I know. But it certainly doesn’t bode well for brick-and-mortar bookstores, and that is such a shame. What if they were to fail in the restructuring attempt? Barnes and Noble would remain as the last man standing, a virtual monopoly, and how long would they last against the online sales markets?

I guess the good news is that books aren’t going the way of the dinosaurs (yet) just bookstores.

I love bookstores. I could easily lose a whole Saturday or Sunday afternoon perusing the shelves, skimming through opening chapters and backcover copy to decide which were worth purchasing and which went back on the shelf for someone else. Online outlets like Amazon.com just aren’t the same. Sure, they provide easy home access and huge selection, but I can’t run my fingers over the spine. I can’t turn to a random page and read to see if the exciting opening holds up for the rest of the story.

I can’t smell the paper and ink.

Then there’s the e-book revolution. We knew years ago it would come, and it sure has. More titles are available. Sales are skyrocketing. Last week the New York Times even started publishing an e-book bestseller list.

Authors can publish without spending tens of thousands of their dollars on a vanity press or going through the traditional publishing house system, which has been killing whole forests to make enough paper to print the tons of rejection letters they send each year. Literary agents are unnecessary middlemen when a writer can upload her book and sell it herself a major outlet like Amazon.com, right?

Maybe, maybe not. There are still plenty of kinks to work out in the business model.

But it does seem as if the whole publishing industry is turning inside-out.

What remains to be seen is, when it’s done, will the new being be a beauty, or a beast?

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6 Responses to “Publishing Industry Turning Itself Inside-out”


  1. 1 Ed February 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I know exactly what you mean! I want to love ebooks, I really do, but there is just something irreplaceable about bookstores. One of my favorite ways to spend a weekend afternoon is to just wander through a bookstore. And lest people brush it off as silly sentimentality, the way you described the physical experience of holding and smelling the books is so true.

    I really hope the Borders near my home doesn’t close. In any case, it will be interesting to see where the industry goes from here.

    • 2 vickietaylor February 16, 2011 at 6:41 pm

      I’ve checked the list of store closings (it’s here if you want to check your area: http://s.wsj.net/public/resources/documents/st_borders0216_20110216.html and it seems like all the stores in north Texas are closing except the one in Allen. Yeah for that, at least! Allen is pretty close to me.

      I have nothing against Amazon.com or e-books. I haven’t bought a kindle or nook yet, but I bet I will in this year. I really like technology. But I don’t want to lose that sense of wonder at wandering through a bookstore and touching the real thing…

  2. 3 Tracy Garrett February 16, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    “killing whole forests to make enough paper to print the tons of rejection letters they send each year. ”

    Amen, sister. And don’t we all have our share of those. 🙂

    • 4 vickietaylor February 16, 2011 at 11:53 pm

      Won’t it be an odd industry, though, where anyone who writes a book can upload it to Amazon.com and market it alongside the bestsellers?

  3. 5 Tracy Garrett February 16, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    I hate to see this happen, but, unfortunately, less-than-stellar decisions finally caught up with them. Add that to the decline in sales… I will miss Borders. They have been very good to me.

    • 6 vickietaylor February 16, 2011 at 11:55 pm

      I think now that online shopping and e-readers are quickly becoming the norm instead of the oddity, it’s going to become increasingly difficult for brick and mortar bookstores to survive. I will miss them.


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