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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

...but it made one fatal mistake: It hired Amazon to handle its online book and music sales while B&N established its own website. Dumb.

Cultural shift hurt Borders' image
Sunday, February 27, 2011
When Borders opened its first outlet in Pittsburgh in 1990, the book-selling world was a far different place than it is in 2011, the year that store and two other Borders in the region are preparing to close in April, dropped by the bankrupt chain.
Started in Ann Arbor, Mich., by the Borders brothers, the young chain was pushing its book "superstore" concept coast to coast in the 1990s, getting a head start on Barnes & Noble, then a smaller competitor.
Launching the takeoff was the brothers' sale of their name and idea to Kmart. In 1988, there were five Borders; there are now more than 600.
The company will abandon 30 percent of the outlets, including the pioneer Bethel Park spot and the Monroeville and East Liberty stores.
Kmart dropped Borders in the late 1990s but the chain managed to thrive and expand on its own in the new century, but it made one fatal mistake: It hired Amazon to handle its online book and music sales while B&N established its own website. Dumb.
After Borders launched its own online sales operation, it was too late to make headway as Amazon and B&N soon moved into the e-book world with their digital reading devices.
Other business decisions aside, the decline of this almost iconic book chain reflects a subtle shift in minds of readers after years of "bigness" -- in stores, sales numbers and the franchising of "big" authors.
Dedicated readers are a sensitive bunch; whether they are pushing the buttons on a digital screen or turning the page in a well-used paperback, they crave that quiet one-on-one with the book.
But, for some time now, they have been getting books and authors shoved in their faces, not because they're good, but because publishers flog them so hard. And the superstore concept is a willing partner in this relentless marketing.
Exhibit No. 1: James Patterson. He's the Little, Brown franchise, a mediocre writer at best who churns out formula thrillers like a movie popcorn machine with a similar stale, greasy fake butter taste. The publisher signed a 17-book contract with him in 2009, with 11 titles to be turned in by 2012.
These demands prompted him to farm out the writing to a stable of typists, coming up with the idea and giving them credit as "co-author."
Mr. Patterson's financial demands then forced the publisher to market the books strenuously, blanketing those superstores with books and displays, paying extra to get good "floor" position, exiling more interesting books to the shadows of these 15,000-square-foot boxes.
Further exhibits include Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, Dean Koontz, Kathy Reichs and Lee Child.
Turn back the clock to 1990 when Borders wooed the media with images of an intimate experience inside a clean, well-lighted place with more than 100,000 separate titles and a coffee shop and comfy chairs.
The chain stuck its first Pittsburgh outlet in suburban Bethel Park by wedging it into an awkward space in a strip mall with cramped parking.
Then the marketing team smoothed over the physical problems with promises of a busy author-visit schedule and other community events staffed with knowledgeable workers.
Even though the region had several well-established independent booksellers at the time, the Borders "experience" promised the hand-selling of independents with the wide selection of Kmart.
As the landscape evolved in the digital age, that cozy, caffeine-scented solicitude gave way to the uniformity of all national chains and Borders lost its distinctiveness.
Economics played the major role in Borders' bankruptcy, but it's clear -- to me at least -- that the mass marketing of books, in fact, reading, no longer has the same appeal.
The "little shop around the corner" concept is looking better and better, even if it's based largely on buying and even printing books through the Internet


Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11058/1127761-74.stm?cmpid=entertainment.xml#ixzz1FMfauWiW

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