Friday, March 21, 2008

Book Stores and Buyers

Big news in the book world. Borders is in financial trouble and may be up for sale. One potential buyer? Barnes and Noble. Why should this matter to writers? Check out Kristin Nelson's blog (see sidebar) for an in depth explanation. The short of it is, right now one of the steps a potential publisher takes in deciding to buy your book is to check it with the buyers from B&N and Borders. If they say they don't think they can sell it, you don't get published. So there would be one fewer buyer to say 'yes' to carrying your masterpiece.

Why is Borders in trouble? I have my suspicions. The Borders here in town are rather sterile in look and feel. The lights are too bright, the people who work there are not particularly friendly and the openness of the store makes the place feel empty. There are no comfy chairs to curl up in. Their 'rewards' program sucks in comparison to B&N's. And they almost never have the book I'm looking for.

At the same time, independent book stores are going under at an alarming rate. Which is sad. But when I think of one of the local independents who went out of business, Chinook, I think it could have been for many of the same reasons I listed above. The people who worked there rarely came out from behind the counter just to see if they could help. The shop was cozier than Borders but still no welcoming chairs. Their selection was limited. And I've heard people say, "But they'd special order anything you wanted." True, but if I have to wait for it, I can get a better deal on Amazon or at B&N. Sorry, but that's the hard economical truth. And their employees were willing to buy the shop when the owners wanted to retire, but they said no.

So what's the answer? Maybe the independents should band together. Form a coalition to build bargaining power. Then they could offer discounts as well. Offer the best of what the biggies do and find a way to stand out. When a friend near San Francisco talked about opening a book store, we suggested partnering with a winery to offer wine and cheese instead of the ever present coffee shop. The shop pet is always fun, especially with a cool name. The Book Sleuth in Old Colorado City has a black cat name Moriarity. Community involvement is good. A literacy program or sponsoring a writer's group can get you noticed.

Look at The Tattered Cover. Three locations in Denver and they have a signing with big name authors almost every day of the year. And there's a friendly feeling when you walk in.


Courtney Suzanne said...

Here's my two cents worth:

I used to be a regular B&N shopper, but I never was a member of the rewards club, as I never spent enough there in a year to break even on it. Since Borders had a free rewards program, I signed up for it and started shopping more at Borders.

The rewards program at Borders has been very inconsistent with the "rewards", but it's better now than it was. I rarely buy any books anymore, as the library is cheaper, but when I do, I use my discount coupon that Borders sent me.

I still prefer B&N for one reason: I can't friggin' find anything at Borders! The way they categorize books boggles my mind. I saw that book on John Adams in the Biography section of B&N, but where is it at Borders? Politics? History? Who knows??? Half the time, they don't even have what I'm looking for in the first place anyway, so why bother?

I'll just go back to the library for now.

The One and Only John said...

Borders is not a bookstore, they tried to branch out, and stretched themselves too thin. I like the idea of independents banding together, but it would take a lot of work on someone's part. You mentioned online sources for books, which I'm sure has a lot to do with bookstores closing down. You can't beat the ambience of a private library where you can buy the books in it. I can't let go of how much I like to hold something in my hands before I buy it. Tattered Cover rules.

Oz, the Mad said...

Now, I had a very short conversation with me pa one day, when we was driving around for some reason. I noticed that a lot of these little independent bookstores in Denver have awnings of the same color and design over their doors--and the same color as the Tattered Covers had at the time. A little thing, but it led me to suspect the possibility that here in Denver at least the bookstores ARE coalitionated. And me pa figured the same thing.

I had a second thought, but I forgot it. So you guys can just imagine it. You're smart. You need me to spell out every single idea I have? No, of course you don't. What do you think I am? A magic 8 ball? Think for yourselves, for marty sakes.

I'm down to boozer.

Mishell said...

I hate to say this, but the bigger the bookstore, the happier I am. My mom used to work in an independant bookstore in Canon City, and I loved the feel of the store, but the selection wasn't big enough for me. It's like you talked about. I don't want to have to order a book. When it comes to books and movies, I want it now (to steal a line from Queen.) I'm willing to sacrifice ambiance for volume.

Now, I haven't been to Borders in about a decade, since I lived in Omaha. (I didn't even know there was a Borders in Springs), but I remember them being a lot better than what you guys describe them as now. I used to love the idea that I could feed all three of my addictions at once-books, movies, and music. I never had a problem finding things, but I guess they've changed since I visited. Imagine a store changing how they do stuff after a decade. Inconceivable!