Borders; To Buy or Not to Buy

I’ve been talking in a number of articles recently about the downturn in publishing, and it seems not a day goes by that we don’t hear about another major publisher making cutbacks and laying off staff. Here are the latest publishing news layoffs as reported by theBookseller.com.

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/72205-anova-trims-staff-and-books-at-portico.html

Earlier this week, Morris Rosenthal on his excellent Foner.books site posted about the situation with Borders and presented a ‘what if’ scenario regarding the purchase of the chain store by a consortium of self-published authors or small publishers. The idea is tingling and exciting, but it would take in the region of about 6000 to stump up the 65 million dollars for Borders. Possible, but highly unlikely. Image 6000 shareholders at the boardroom table, with their own agendas and titles in mind to be stocked at every brick ‘n’ mortar store!

I proposed that there was a better chance of AuthorSolutions making a bid for Borders with their own vested interest in AuthorHouse and iUniverse. Morris Rosenthal suggested that their published model differed and, in effect, their revenue was generated through the author, and not as publishers selling books.

“I’m not sure the subsidy POD market sees themselves as having an interest in putting books on shelves. That’s not their business model, and I don’t have any reason to believe they have any expertise in book retailing or title selection. I don’t really expect authors of the world to unite and act, but I think that’s the only chance most of those using non-traditional publishing companies have of seeing their titles on store shelves. I’m also not saying it’s a logical economic move, only that it’s possible, if getting shelf space is the goal.”

For publishers like AuthorHouse and iUniverse, Morris probably has a good point. The money-lender or loan shark doesn’t have much of a market in boom times, and these publisher’s business models are certainly not set up for any money flowing toward the author. Their business model is built on earning money from author services and not selling books, so Morris is perhaps right in saying that despite their market share, it doesn’t warrant the risk investment in sales of books, let alone the purchase of a brick ‘n’ mortar outlet.

Yet, I can’t help seeing this as an opportunity. I have researched enough over the past two years to know there are good POD/Subsidy publishers out there, and unlike others, I’m not afraid to name them, and post my own colours to the mast. While their services may differ, their prices may vary, they have one thing in common; they are upfront about the business they are involved in, and in varying ways, they have all pushed the envelope for POD publishing, either through service/set-up price (Lulu, Booklocker), marketing services offered (Infinity, iUniverse), forum, magazine and broadcasting, (Raider International Publishing). The fact is, there are a sizable number of POD publishers who could actually afford to come together through some network, be it the purchase of Borders, or any other chain of stores, and set up a proper independent presence in the high street if they really had the commitment.

In times of recession, the true idealist, the true entrepreneur, doesn’t see it as a time of adversity, but a time of opportunity to implement untested business models. It is time to circumvent the traditional passages of getting our idea, story, or book across to the masses. How well this can be done is truly open to criticism, to failure, but also to success.

We live in an age where I can sit here happily for the next few hours, write several thousand words, not just post it to the world, but publish it, make it accessible anywhere in the world within moments, have it purchased as a physical book, marketed and press-released, submitted to a hundred and one pointless on-line literary prizes, posted to Amazon, posted to Google, … and all this before I go to bed tonight. It won’t make it a masterpiece, but it would satisfy a need that may be long gone tomorrow…..

And who would walk into our Independent bookstores, bought from the Borders chain, filled with books by many authors nobody has heard of, by publishers nobody has heard of? A single copy or two, one after the other, shelf after shelf, aisle after isle, waiting for the next customer to venture in and browse…

Hmmm, perhaps we will get our daily reading fix a different way; by ereader, Internet, or, like technology, it will already be genetically programmed into us!

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