It’s official. Borders is going out of business. The parent company, The Borders Group, announced Monday a buyer could not be found for the bankrupt company, so it will will have to close its remaining 399 stores and liquidate all assets.
Book hold a special place in the hearts of readers and writers, so it will be sad to see a major book chain closing its doors, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be doom and gloom.
Let’s take a look at how the Borders closings will affect writers.
Okay, right off the bat, all the Borders stores closing means there will be fewer books available on the market. Borders was the second-largest book chain behind Barnes & Noble, so the math on this one is pretty simple. A couple of hundred or so Borders have already closed and the remaining 399 will be closing starting Friday. Fewer places to buy books, fewer books sold. It’s that simple. And no, Barnes & Noble will not be able to take up all the slack.
Fewer books being sold will also hit the book publishing industry. Things are already pretty tight for book publishers what with the bad economy and the rise of e-books and Amazon, so the outlook is bleak. It’s not impossible some publishers will go out of business, potentially even major publishers. One thing that is practically assured is publishers will be taking on fewer and fewer new writers, and more than likely will continue the recent trend of dropping mid-list authors. Basically, unless you are a major seller and/or have enough luck that your very first book is a major hit, the book publishers are not likely to be interested.
There’s another way the Borders closings will hit writers. Borders employs 10,700 people, all of whom will be looking for work soon. How does this affect writers? We have lost 10,700 advocates for our profession. Many of the Borders employees worked on the front lines in the stores and had daily dealings with customers. Those employees were the ones who could recommend books and authors to potential readers. Now the majority of those employees will more than likely be out of the book business. Goodbye free word-of-mouth advertising. And it sucks all those people are losing their jobs.
There is some potential good news in all this mess, however.
E-books were mentioned above. With Borders dropping off and major publishers taking on fewer new authors, more writers will likely be turning to e-books for publishing, and that can be a good thing. E-books offer better percentages of pay than do nearly all print publishers, at least as of right now. Writers will not have to wait months and years just to find out they’ve been rejected yet again, because once a writing project is finished the writer can make it available for purchase online. Writers will also not be hampered by the approval of others, mainly editors but also accounting departments at publishing companies, etc. The writers can let their imaginations roam and can write what they want instead of what other people think will sell. Of course there are downsides to all of this as well, including quality issues because fewer writers will be going through the traditional gatekeepers, but that will work its way out eventually; readers themselves are likely to be the new gatekeepers, and they should be able to handle the job.
Whatever the future holds for the book publishing industry and writers, it is going to look different than it has in the past. Those who can forge ahead will not only survive but will thrive. Those who cannot deal with the changes in technology and business will eventually fall by the wayside. It’s cruel, but it’s also the way the business world works. Here’s to hoping we all make good decisions and come down on the winning side!