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Borders « Previous | |Next »
February 27, 2011

The closing of the Borders chain of stores and those of Angus Robertson---as many as 200 Angus & Robertson and Borders bookstores could be sold off or closed---is due to the bankruptcy of the parent company in the US. It's ironic because people in the past have bemoaned the replacement of the local and the quaint by outposts of the big, homogeneous and increasingly global chains. Others welcomed them.

Will the demise of the Borders and Angus Robertson chains lead to a resurgence of independent booksellers?


The failure of AR and Borders will not see a resurgence in the independent book retailer market, given the shift to buying books online because it is far cheaper to do so. Bricks and mortar shops just can't compete on price. The Australian dollar has risen in value in recent months and consumers are turning to the internet to buy books at much lower prices. We pay way more for books than countries like the USA, due to consumers in Australia being both gouged by local distribution networks, and government protection of the Australian publishing industry.

Most of the online trade is presumed to be flowing towards Amazon in the United States and the UK's Book Depository website. The latter offers free postage to Australia.

Bricks and mortar independent booksellers selling and physical books will become a specialist niche (eg., older, hard-to-find books) in a marketplace increasingly shaped by the big discount stores--- Big W, Target and Kmart--- for those who desire a luxury product.

Intensifying competition is lead not just to price reduction but also to a round of creative destruction. Companies that are unable to cope with the demands of consumers in the internet age should be wiped out. Books, magazines and newspapers will be around and be profitable, but online distribution will shrink the independents businesses, and they will need to downsize physically and increase their online presence to be competitive.

The electronic book age is dawning. The smaller independent bookstores, who have historically struggled to compete with the large chains, may be able to begin to benefit from the expanding e-book market--eg., by teaming up with Google Editions, or rather Google eBooks.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:42 PM | | Comments (9)


Yes I really can't see any reason why people would want to buy books at a shop, even if prices were identical (and online prices will almost certainly always be cheaper apart from the odd shop clearance sale). Online outlets have much more variety, the book you want is probably in stock (not just 1 million copies of the 20 titles the shop has on promotion that month) and it's much easier to browse. I can spend hours on Amazon, and end up buying things I never even knew existed, with a good chance of being satisfied because I've read a selection of reader's reviews.

Thanks for the tip about Book Depository - I'll check it out.

I'm buying a US field guide to Birds of North America via the internet.
$49 plus postage if I buy it in Oz, $13 plus postage if I buy it from the internet via the US.
Well its a US book isn't it?

So out of curiousity I checked the price of Australia's best selling Field Guide to Australian Birds.
$43 if I buy it from a shop in Australia.
$29, including postage, delivered to my letter box, if I buy it from the internet in America.


it is crazy economics from Australian publishers. They won't survive if they don't change

the Internet affects the book retail market from cost, price and inside company. I see the future including the downloading of a particular book in a formatted file of some kind. It’s an inevitable trend in the book retail market.

The government protection stops bookstores from importing cheaper editions; this form of protectionism is just leading to the demise of Australian bookstores.

I have noticed my local target and kmart stock mostly kids,cooking and books that would be for presents now. So they have decided where the dollar in books is for them and have very limited stocks in others. Same as the music. Top 40 albums and a small section of various artists and genres. The internet is killing off the used car dealer too.

Peter Craven in The Age says:

The independents care more about books, they may even care more about quality books, but the fact that they know about Casanova's memoirs or Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution does not mean they will necessarily have the wherewithal to keep them on their shelves.And let's face it, the books that march out of shops are the Stieg Larsson thrillers, the Twilight books, the Harry Potters, and the Nigella Lawson cookbooks. That's as true of the independents as it is of the chains.

He adds that we need the big Borders book emporiums.Like the supermarkets, they are designed to provide for everybody: they give you the brie along with the baked beans.

It's not snobbery that we don't visit chain bookstore such as Borders---as Peter Craven claims in The Age. It is because they lost the plot and decided to reduce their range. They dumbed themselves down and their price was over the top. They---the private equity owners---carried too much debt.

We and those businesses must accept that the internet is and will cause a shift in business and employment. As it has generated new types of business and jobs it will impact on retail negatively in some areas. Book shops will continue but there will be less of them and those that remain will need to find niche markets or be good retail operators.
Its a very similar set of circumstances to when the car came along. Over a period of time the horse and cart manufacturers and service industry lessened or remodelled its business to adapt. Or they shut the doors.