With Borders Bookstore closing, what does this mean for the rest of the publishing industry?

At one time, record stores and CDs were plentiful and everywhere. You could not possibly fathom that they would go out of business so fast (actually the CD had a shorter lifespan than the vinyl record). The basic goal of the modern day MP3 player is still the same, for you to listen to music. The experience is no less. Its now all about convenience and portability.
The publishing industry is going to go through the same thing. Very large book chain stores will find it inherently very hard to compete. The profit margins have dwindled, the cost of utilities is going up, real-estate rates are still high, it takes a lot of money to hire people and pay for bills. So Borders though 10 years ago was a phenomenal success, but rightfully so, they should have seen it coming. Somethings are inevitable.

When Borders or the large Barnes and Noble stores came into existence, many small book stores had to close down. Remember the movie You’ve Got Mail!(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You…) – in which the Fox Books drives the small book store out of business. Well the 90s saw a lot of that, and whatever little was left, the early/mid 2000 closes those small shops as well.

Who survived? Those who carved a niche. I personally (emphasis supplied) do not know of a single used bookstore that went out of business. Others reinvented themselves, by catering to a very specific vertical (like Old and Rare books), etc. and survived.

With the eminent closing of Border, the book industry has slowly been morphing its business model. As more and more digital devices are sold, electronic books are taking a hold of us. You will see less and less people reading a book on their couches, and see more of them using their iPads. Sign of times (that are evolving).

More and more colleges and universities are preferring to distribute syllabus and reading in digital format, books though recommended (college professors would be without a job if they did not recommend books), are available in digital format now-a-days.

At some point in time, even the physical paper book will be threatened. No one can predict when – but it will happen. The newspaper industry has already seen that happen. 10-12 years ago, no pundit could accurately predict the fall of Borders, and look what happened today. Who knows, a cataclysmic change for the worse could happen to the book/publishing industry, in way we did not fathom (at present)…. only a few years from now.

The amount of physical books published will continue to circulate in and be sold in secondary markets (used book stores, etc.). Bookshelves still look beautiful in any settings and in some ways you are identified by the books you have.

In today’s ever evolving digital economy, carrying 10 books with you in a backpack is just not preferred. Why you could have a 100 books in your Kindle or iPad, and no trees were cut-down. No fuel wasted in transporting them to various book stores, much more cleaner and greener industry.

In the coming years, the physical book would be totally cease of exist (though I find that difficult to come to terms with), however, it could see a very large reversal of fortune for sure (this much I am sure of). Only question is when? To which some may answer – its now – its happening as we read.

The questions about Borders are plentiful. One of the best answers to “Why did Borders fail” is given on Quora. Be sure to go through the answers and comments. Makes a great mini-case study.

This page was last updated on July 19, 2011.

1 thought on “With Borders Bookstore closing, what does this mean for the rest of the publishing industry?”

  1. Hi Faisal, Joe from Livefyre here. Just stopping by to thank you for installing our plugin and welcome you to our team. But I just so happen that I find this particular topic to be fascinating. There used to be a Borders a block from my apartment and as I watched its slow demise I often found myself thinking about what it means for the future of publishing. My thoughts were further complicated last weekend after watching “Page One”, the brilliant documentary about the NY Times (which I highly recommend). It’s confusing to me because physical books are clearly less necessary, but still highly functional. That last sentence is pretty obvious, so let me clarify: physical books provide either knowledge or entertainment, but more importantly, as tangible objects they generate powerful memories of people and places. Whether it’s remembering when I loaned a copy of “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” to my friend Jennie which led to a discussion about the impact it had on my decision to quit my last job, or how I always smile when a I see a copy of “Blink” because I vividly remember flipping the pages with sand covered hands while enjoying a day at Ocean Beach. I think physical books will always have a place both on bookshelves and in our hearts, but it will be interesting to see how retail chains adapt to better position themselves for the future. This reminds me of a line from another book I have, “Here Comes Everybody,” where Clay Shirky writes, “Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.” I wonder if this quotation can be applied to books?Something to think about.

    Thanks for sparking my interest. I’m looking forward to getting to know you. In the meantime, if you ever have any questions or feedback feel free to shoot our team an email at support [at] livefyre [dot] com. Cheers!

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