Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Are we on the Border of Book Extinction?

Books. Are they a dying art?

If you put a lot of stock in headlines, you might think so, with one of the three American mega-booksellers filing Chapter 11.

Yep, it's true, according to an AP online article I just read by Mae Anderson. Borders is filing Chapter 11 after 40 years as a trend-setting, latte-sipping, book-pedaling national icon. One third of Borders' 600+ stores will be closing within the next few months, all of them superstores which are now losing upwards of $2 million a day.

Apparently Borders lagged behind Barnes & Noble and perhaps BAM as well in hopping on the electronic bandwagon and has struggled for the past five years as online book sales grow and hard copy sales diminish. They owe millions upon millions to publishers and it seems everybody wants their dough. Now.

With the distribution of books now eeking out to Walmart, Target, Sams and Costco, people who still want hard copies have turned to the cheaper outlets, despite the lure of big box bookstore cappachino and triple chunk brownies while you browse. And we musn't forget the incipid monster, Amazon, which has gobbled up much of the online business for both hard and e-copies.

The statistic that made me saddest in the article was that book sales fell nearly 5 % in 2010 in all outlets, except Walmart, which wasn't included in the tracking system. I certainly haven't stopped reading; if anything, I'm reading more than ever before.

And you surely couldn't prove people aren't reading as much if you hang out at beaches, airports, or dentists offices these days. All you see is a sea of book covers. What gives?

Now, I've never had any special affinity for Borders (or Books-A-Million for that matter), because B & N has always been the most congenial in working with and encouraging new authors. When my first book came out, I naively called all three to inquire about getting my book on their shelves. BAM and Borders ignored me completely - even rudely - but B&N kindly took the time to explain the ropes (which meant they said in a nice way that the chance of first books landing on major bookshelves is about as good as big Bird becoming a congressman).

But at least they responded and treated me like a human being.

Anyway, despite the fact that I've never stepped food in a Borders or BAM since then, I still hate like heck to see them go under. I hate to see any bookstore go under, especially the dozens of small family-owned bookstores run out of business by the mega-stores when they first erupted on the scene. There are still a few indies still holding on by their fingernails and when I get the browse craving, those are the ones I head to. My business may be small, but it's still better than nothing and I'd sure like to see them stay open.

So what can a Kindle-owning, girl-turned-author do? Cry a tear and hold a candle at the brick and morter funeral, I guess.