Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Borders Going Belly Up

... if even a chain operation can't compete with Amazon's economies of scale what possible hope can there be for a small independent? How long before they require charitable status to operate at all? ... Since then I've found myself wondering exactly how much of a premium I'd pay to keep that small bookshop in business. Because – all millennial gloom about cultural priorities aside -– it isn't easy to reconcile the book-liking bit of me (which wants a huge range of titles available at really cheap prices) with the bookshop-liking bit of me (which still loves to be surprised by an appetite I didn't know existed)
writes Thomas Sutcliffe in The Independent, responding to the news that Borders in the UK is in deep trouble.

Is this the final chapter for traditional bookshops? asks James Thompson in the same newspaper, pointing out that :
... Borders UK is far from an isolated example of a struggling bookseller. In January 2008, the discount chain The Works went into administration, although it has emerged as a 254-store operation under the ownership of Endless, the Leeds-based private equity group. Even the high-street stalwart Waterstone's, which has more than 300 branches, reported a 3.4 per cent fall in underlying sales for the 18 weeks to 29 August. For a number of years, Britain's bookshops have been haemorrhaging sales to Amazon, the online giant that launched in the UK in 1998, and the supermarkets. They have also suffered from the end of the Harry Potter gravy train in 2007. ... High-street chains now also have to contend with the threat of electronic book readers, most notably Amazon's Kindle device, taking more money away out of their tills. In the wake of Borders UK's troubles, serious questions are again being asked about whether there is a place for traditional shops selling books on our high streets.
Worth reading too about the book trade in Britain is Stuart Jeffries piece on The Guardian blog, which accuses another chain, Waterstones, of killing bookselling. Peter Robins responds to the piece here.

What is apparent is that the business of bookselling - everywhere - is changing drastically and not always in ways that we like. And the future of the trade is beset with uncertainty.

Today I had a very pleasant browse in Borders at The Curve. Hope that our branches of the bookshop (and indeed of all our bookshops) here in Malaysia will manage to survive.


YTSL said...

I hope the Borders in Malaysia survive too! (Am now living and working in Hong Kong but go to Borders to stock up on books to take back with me on each trip back to Penang! And yes, I wish there were Borders branches in Hong Kong!)

savante said...

Hope it does well too. Can't imagine not being able to browse in a bookstore. How are we going to find new books and new authors to read?

Karina said...

I have to say, I want a Kindle. Bookstore, anytime anywhere. I don't really need the brick and mortar to encourage browsing :-)

Oxymoron said...

The UK is in recession. Hopefully in the long run, the British currency will go down and books from there will be more affordable.

B said...

A bit misleading that. Borders (the company) isn't going under, the UK branch is. IINM the local brach is a locally-owned, licensed franchise and is not connected in any way to Borders UK.

chia said...

i love browsing books at stores, but these days i only buy online. I live and study in Zurich and books are highly overpriced here! (Kinda like Malaysia...) I shop at the Book Depository which provides free shipping worldwide (so in the end they are cheaper than Amazon). I ordered a book home to my brother in KL last month, and it took about 3 weeks to arrive (but hey, it arrived!! I was pleasantly surprised ;p) Browsing online is easy these days... not as good as flipping through books in the store, but you can usually preview a few pages and obtain some reviews from other readers.