We should all be doing as well as Borders… wait, what?

Maybe we should all go out of business.

Wait, now here me out. This is about Borders again.

Our local, doomed Borders Bookstore has been having their big going-out-of-business sale and Margaret and I have been dropping a shocking amount of money there recently. Why? Because between their sales and our membership card, we’re getting books at 30-40% off the cover price. Some even less than that. This has been an opportunity for me to stock up on art and design books which are usually just a little out of my usual cheapskate range. If I had more money, I’d go back and spend even more.

And it’s not just us. The place has been fairly well packed on each of our visits since the news of their liquidation. All businesses should be doing so well.

Okay, okay. The reality is that there are some aspects of the business suffering a loss. More books bought mean fewer returns which is good for the publishers that are managing to get paid and, in turn, the authors. That will help as I’m sure there are going to be record returns involved here. Not all will be pulped, I hope. Some will be redistributed to other outlets. Some will go to the remainder stores. These guys are pros at not letting things go to waste. But just the same, there are going to be thousands of titles destined for the recycling plant because that’s where the money is going to make sense.

Okay, so on the surface it looks good. But my opening statement is a horrible lie. What is this all going to mean for the future? I can’t think in long-term. My crystal ball is in the shop. But I do know that a lot of authors who have books coming out over the next year are probably going to have some very disappointing numbers. Half the major market just vanished. This may not affect fiction sales as much as nonfiction. I didn’t purchase any fiction in this latest book splurge because I’m fine with going the e-book route with most of the titles I’d be interested in right now. This will hurt nonfiction, though, which is a weaker ebook channel. While it’s theoretically an option to put comics and art books into electronic format, it’s not a very desirable format. Oh, I know some will disagree in regards to comics, but I think many are finding that while electronic distribution of comics is doing better these days, it’s nowhere near as good as they’d like.

And art books? I really have my doubts. Medium is important when looking at art books and electronic screens use different display criteria than the printed page. Ink matters. Paper matters. While high-end graphic displays can be tweaked to reflect properties of ink and paper, they’re for professional designers and not in the handheld hands of the hoi polloi. Not yet, and not for a while to come.

You know what nonfiction category might do well in eformat? Cookbooks. Yeah. Half the time, I’m trying a new recipe from something I found online and am consulting said recipe from my iPhone sitting on the kitchen counter. Travel guides will do well, also. What else?

Who knows.

One thing I do know about this whole Borders closing situation is that changes to the publishing landscape are going to happen a bit more quickly now–not just because it has the competition worried that they might be next, but because the market demands that books still come out, and if they won’t be available in one form, they’ll find another.

So perhaps, in a way, Borders closing can be seen as a good thing in a very cold-blooded sort of way. It’s forcing us to develop. To change with the times whether we like it or not.
Hmm… food for thought.

*   *   *

As a small publisher, I couldn’t really afford to get my books into Borders or the other box stores yet. Yes, you can order any Merry Blacksmith title through your local bookstore, but the costs of distribution are not friendly to small publishers. I’m keeping my eyes open for changes to that. I think we’ll start seeing some new distribution options evolving.

That's the man right there on the front. Cover by Bob Snare.

But that said, I’m happy to announce that Bud Webster’s The Joy of Booking just went to the printer and will be available in a couple of weeks. I’m actually taking pre-orders now (in case you’re interested). This is a whole different type of book business–the used book business. Bud is a veteran used book seller. He’s sold online and on convention floors and in bookstores. He’s a devoted bibliophile, and an experienced hand in vintage books. In The Joy of Booking, he shares his tips and tricks for the hobbyist bookseller who is looking to make a few extra bucks. This was originally published as a chapbook from SRM, but the Merry Blacksmith edition has been revised and expanded, and still costs the same.

How’s that for a deal?

So that’s my big local news. Even with Borders going out of business, some of us are still cranking out books. Why? We want to. You want us to.

It’s all good.

Cheers!

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