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Friday, February 18, 2011

Borders Bankruptcy Now a Reality

The collapse of the book retail empire Borders, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday, is weighing heavily on the minds of many business leaders and observers. Though it came as a surprise to no one following the issue, the company’s stated plan to close 200 stores nationwide over the next few weeks kick-started a discussion of what went wrong and what it means for the publishing industry and business in general.

There has been something systemically wrong with Borders for a long, long time. I am tired of the pundit-experts telling us this company collapsed financially because Borders "was behind the digital book curve." Sure, that was part of the problem. However . . . we routinely experienced fundamental Bookselling 101 issues with this chain that we never experienced with Barnes and Noble. Here are a few examples:

1) Authors showing up for scheduled signings only to be asked by the manager, "Is that tonight?"

2) Authors going into a store to sign copies of their book, a sales clerk discovering several in-store per the computer system, and then waiting an hour as the clerk ran around unable to find them. "They are here somewhere . . ." was the constant refrain. "They are in the system." The books were never found.

3) Authors showing up for a scheduled signing only to discover that Borders had not ordered books for the signing even though they informed our staff they had done so.

4) Authors showing up for a scheduled signing only to discover that Borders ordered books for the event, had not put them out in advance, and then could not find them!

The list is longer, but you get the point. We had 3-4 authors who had these issues over and over and over in stores spread across the country. What are the odds this happened only with these few titles? Now, how many people looking for how many books over how many years have been unable to purchase them because of something rotten inside this chain?

Now, can you guess how this company is doing financially?

Stay tuned for more updates. And no, this is not good news for publishers or book readers.



J David Petruzzi said...

It sure isn't. Amazing.

Our local Walden Books became a Borders some years back. When my first book came out, we did a signing and did terrific - something like 18 copies. Getting them to order more books was like pulling teeth.

By the time my third book, The Complete Gettysburg Guide came out, they stopped ordering my books. People went into the store looking for it (I know, because several called me) but they were told the old line, "we can order it for you and have it in -- days." They complete stopped stocking my books, but you can be sure the Autobiography of Justin Beiber is there.

I gave up on them a couple years ago, and haven't been in there since.

They're getting what they deserve IMO.


Anonymous said...

The Borders staff clerks in our local store are awful. Only one can help you. The other two or three usual ones there when I need something or have a question I doubt have read a book since they graduated high school. This chain used to be great, but the last five years or so has really been off the mark. They earned their F grade.

John Fox said...

Ted, Borders began to play accounting games with our Angle Valley Press books several years ago [with orders and then quick returns] and I have told my distributor on 2 different occasions to stop accepting orders from them. Locally here in Winchester Va I talked with the manager/asst managers for the Bordrs store on several occasions and showed them our list of CW books w/ local Shenandoah Valley info. How many of our books did they ever order? A big zippo! But Petruzzi summed it up best - they certainly have all the latest nonsense on Justin Bieber.
John Fox
Angle Valley Press