Friday, July 29, 2011
DEATH OF A DINOSAUR: BORDERS CROSSES OVER
And now a moment of silence for the passing of a dinosaur. Not the last of its kind, but at one time a large and fearsome beast, now reduced to a blind, stumbling hulk gasping out its last days in the desert of uncaring commerce. Borders, once the purveyor of authors’ dreams along with the books you could hold in your hand, now and forever out of business.
What of the authors whose books once graced the shelves in Borders’ many shelves? The publishers, editors, agents, cover artists and assorted others associated with the actual production of books? With some exceptions, for anyone under the age of oh, say, thirty right now, the answer is a profound “Meh.” Add a shrug if you want.
Oh, but there’s still Barnes and Noble, you say. Books-a-Million. Even Walmart. Uh-huh. And a few small, dedicated independent bookstores still survive at minimal profit, too. And the libraries, God bless ‘em, keep fighting the good fight for shelf space while ebooks, DVDs and outreach programs compete for budget dollars.
Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite, Amazon, swallows the reading world. After all, what’s not to love? You can order real books and have them delivered anywhere in days. You can download ebooks to your Kindle or Ipad or phone and read them in seconds. You can self-publish your novel. You can distribute your digital novel to a worldwide audience. And soon, you will be able to publish your romance novel through Amazon’s own publishing line.
You don’t have to have lived through the days of the robber barons and their monopolies of railroads, steel and coal to know that there is something wrong with this picture. Barnes and Noble is barely holding its own against this juggernaut. Books-a-Million, Costco and Walmart survive because they are warehousing/ discounting-type operations. They sell large numbers of certain kinds of books that are guaranteed to make a profit. Forget the mid-listers in that scenario. And as soon as the book department starts losing money it will be shut down.
The closing of the Borders in my town of approximately 100,000 people means we will be without a bookstore. At least for a while. Books-a-Million plans to take over the recently closed Joseph-Beth bookstore in a few months. Walmart has books. We have a used/rare bookstore downtown. That’s it. Nothing else between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia.
Suppose for a moment that Amazon decides they don’t want to play nice anymore. (That assumes, of course, that they have been playing nice so far.) They can raise prices to whatever they want. They can refuse to carry books from this publisher or that one. They can refuse access to this author or that one. They can drop certain books and manipulate prices and promotions to encourage sales of others.
Who is going to stop them? Consider that even the people who would normally be in competition with Amazon (epublishers, for example, who have their own “distribution” sites), have agreements with them to expand the sales of their ebooks. The old rules against monopoly and restriction of trade apparently don’t apply. Yet. And by the time the powers that be figure out new rules, it may be too late. The power to make all the decisions will be concentrated in the hands of a very few—or maybe even just one.
So take a moment to mark the passing of this skeletal creature as it shuffles off into the distance. We know not what skulks at its heels.
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?
Well, I’m no Stephen King or J.R. Ward, y’all. When I go on vacation I actually, uh, vacate. (Did you know that Stephen works every day except his birthday and the Fourth of July? The Fourth of July? Really? Why not Christmas? Or Halloween? I don’t think J.R. ever takes a day off.)
But when I got back I finished up the revisions on Trouble in Mind and will be sending it out to my enthusiastic, but way-too-honest agent friend for her reading pleasure. Also to my beta readers (look out, you two), who now no longer have the excuse of the NY conference to escape the task of reading the manuscript. Then I go back to work on the first draft of Fools Rush In, the third book in the series. Really need to make some progress there.
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.
Thanks to Barbara Elsborg and D.L. Jackson, both experienced and multi-published e-writers, for their feedback regarding my thoughts on whether to go digital in my last journal post. Your comments were invaluable, ladies. I’m still mulling it over, getting closer each day. Thanks, too, to Laurie, who I know is also having the same kind of thoughts.