Friday
Jul222011

The Era of Big Chain Bookstores is Passing

Today, Borders Group, the direct competitor of Barnes & Noble, is beginning liquidation of its 399 stores, and “everything must go,” folks. And that means $700 million of the company's inventory, which includes books, stationery, CDs, and DVD movies. Even the furnishings and equipment, right down to the shelving will also be sold off. Yikes!

According to one paper, “A liquidation company that is part of the process said late Thursday that the sales will be held starting Friday at all 259 Borders superstores, 114 Borders Express and Waldenbooks, and 26 Borders airport stores.”

A distant rival, Books-A-Million, is said to be bidding for “leases and assets of 30 Borders stores.”

With this latest news, it is official: we are nearing the end of the era of big chain bookstores as we know it. Sad for some, awesome for others. There is a major shift going on in the book world today, and that shift is caused primarily by the upward momentum of the eBook market, which is currently being propelled by online giant Amazon.com. In the decades to come, we won’t be able to walk a mere four or five blocks in a major city and pop into a big chain bookstore to browse the shelves and sit down over a steaming cup of java as we peruse a choice print book or two. Those days will be long gone. Instead, look to see a slew of people sitting in actual coffee shops with various eReaders in hand, clicking through digital books that didn’t cost us a forest. (You’ll see a few of ‘em now in fact.)

That is perhaps the main impetus behind this shift. I believe it is a “green” initiative if nothing else. Let’s face it, the old way of doing things gets . . . well, old after a while. Take the combustible engine and gas-fed cars for one thing. The only reason they’re still around is due to the power that is in the hands of the men and women who run the auto industry. There is too much money being made on oil (in all its forms). When that ceases to be true, we’ll see a slew of new technologies aimed at powering our vehicles vying for the top spot. That is exactly what’s happening in the book industry now. Sales of physical books aren’t what they used to be, therefore, warehousing them the traditional way, and stocking endless shelves across the country is becoming too expensive for all involved, so the powers that be are basically trying to abandon ship and look for an alternative way to keep the cash flowing.

Enter digital books. Those expenses are a thing of the past; environmentalists can breathe easy; and, let’s face it, given the technology, you can carry thousands of books in a slim, lightweight device that lasts for weeks on a single charge (depending on your eReader of choice, of course).

Taken together, we are seeing the end of an era, folks, and the dawning of a new, more interesting one. Here’s to change!

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