It's hard to believe that, just last year, Borders was considering buying Barnes And Noble to take over retail space and make one bookstore chain instead of two competing ones. B&N was in trouble for a while there. They came up with the Nook, another proprietary ebook reader and started distributing ebooks. A lot of people point to this as what has turned B&N around, but I think that's just part of it. They've also closed underperforming stores, consolidated, and other moves to help refocus. As a result, they are bouncing back and doing well. Borders, meanwhile, is in a freefall. They sell ebook readers but none of them are branded through them, closing off that revenue stream. Last year, they closed all their British stores. And now, they are an acquisition target by B&N.
This will create one bookstore chain nationwide. Brick and mortar works different. Amazon gets a huge edge because of the sheer amount of stuff they have, both in and out of print. B&N and Borders made inroads by turning the bookstore into a social place. The first time I went into a B&N, I was shocked that I could read as much of the books as I wanted before deciding if I would buy them. Up to that point, the only bookstore still around was a Waldenbooks, and between the cramped aisles and the clerks giving you the evil eye, browsing was discouraged. Now, I could browse. And I know it had an impact, because that Waldenbooks got remodeled. It became more spacious and open. Tables and chairs were set up so you could browse, and their selection increased. Waldenbooks was my choice for a long time until they got bought by Borders and the store shrank, becoming a tiny little cramped store, just with better lighting and you could still browse, assuming you could find some space.
Man, I remember there was a Waldenbooks and a B. Dalton, and I'd spend HOURS there. And Crown Books. The mall had two bookstores, and I think, at one point, there were three. Now? A few years ago, I went to a convention and got a hotel room. I had just started reading The Dresden Files and was almost done with the one book I brought with. The hotel had a mall across the road. I figured, no problem, I'll pop in there. A two story mall the size of a city block.
Not. One. Book. Store.
There was a Sanrio store (Hello Kitty. I hate that little punk). But no bookstore. Not even a Borders Express, which usually pops up around the holidays.
Now, things are really getting harsh. Diamond has announced it is suspending all shipments to Borders. That means no more graphic novels and collections from them.
This strikes me as odd.
Here's the thing -- Marvel and DC don't go through Diamond to supply Borders, they have their own set-ups (and are probably pissed as all hell right now, too). And yet, everyone is saying this is going to really put the hurt on the industry because Borders has tons of money due to publishers that they aren't coughing up and tons of product that might be returned, putting publishers on the hook for those books that never sold. But Marvel and DC aren't part of that deal, and they hold the majority of shelf space. So who is really going to get nailed here?
IDW could be in some trouble. They do the Bloom County collections and are Diamond exclusive. And wants this? Fantagraphics is also in the crosshairs. They have the Peanuts collections in the stores, and they are Diamond exclusive (could this be the end of Gary Groth's little circle jerk for artistic posers?). And Image just has some stuff. Viz, unfortunately, is in a fragile position, given how much manga these places bought just before the bubble burst. But who else is there?
...oh, hello, Tokyopop!
I'm still pissed about Tokyopop's talent search that took anyone who signed up with them and made them their bitch. Stuart J. Levy was quiet for a while, then last year, started barnstorming, complete with bringing the Toykopop "tour bus" (I may not have been a fan, but the Spawnmobile was, in fact, cooler) to the ChicagoCon last August. He was talking about all the new media opportunities they were looking at.
Got a Plan B?