Saturday, 28 November 2009

Bad News for Borders and Bookstores Everywhere

I was very unhappy to hear the news during this week that Borders had filed for administration, having hit a very rocky trading period:

Link to UK Reuters

Of course, Borders, with their policy of stocking and promoting local writers and publishers, have been the main high street outlet for Fenriswulf Books to date. The view that the online book stores such as Amazon are responsible for this slump is probably not inaccurate - online stores have no overheads, don't need to pay expensive high street store rent, electricity, or pay staff to stand around all day when business is thin. You can order just about anything from Amazon, and not have to queue up to buy it, or wait 6 weeks for the retailer to import it from abroad.

The problem is, if Borders suffer, what about all the other bricks and mortar stores? If this was the start of a trend, then it's a rather depressing one. I'm sorry, but for all the hype over Kindle and paper-free books of the future - for all the convenience of online shopping - there's still no substitute to browsing through endless shelves of interesting book covers in a real shop, looking through real books at beautifully-printed pictures or illustrations. Sometimes a book can seem fascinating and an essential purchase until you flick through it and realise it's not really what you expected - you can't do that with most books online.

I view the whole electronic book reader concept as little more than a gimmick, and an overpriced one at that. It's really no contest, like trying to compare the experience of watching a movie like Gladiator on a portable DVD player with a 3" screen, against viewing it on an HD home cinema system with surround sound. OK for sitting on a long train journey, but pretty worthless as a long-term replacement.

On a personal note, it's a pretty lousy time of year for the 1000+ UK staff to find out that their jobs are at risk. Especially, from my point of few, those few in my local store whom I've had such great assistance from, and rapport with, over the past year or so. I do hope this isn't the end, and that Borders will continue to stay around, in some form or another, for the foreseeable future.

I certainly don't want to see the day when I have to rush in to reclaim unsold copies of books before a final closing down sale.

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