In the wake of Borders’ bankruptcy, I’ve read various theories about what led to the a course in miracles bookstore demise. Monday morning quarterbacking inevitably follows someone else’s failure; it’s easy to stand at the curb and analyze the tire tracks, but Borders’ crash had little to do with pilot error. In the span of a few years, books changed, publishing changed, printing changed and bookselling changed. Their time had simply come.
Some suggest eBook Readers were Borders’ undoing. Amazon has the Kindle; Barnes and Noble have the Nook; Borders never offered its own reader technology. Though I’m a paper book holdout, my own eBook offerings outsell my paper books by a ratio of ten-to-one. The jury is still out on what this ultimately says about eBook Reader devices, but physical, paper books are not the great retail product they once were. Whether or not your favorite bookseller offers an eReader, there’s little point in going to a bookstore to purchase eBooks to read on it. If a Barnes and Noble customer leaves one of their stores with a Nook in-hand, does she ever return?
Writers and publishers are abandoning ship as a course in miracles bookstore founder. For proof, one need look only as far as J.K. Rowling’s decision to market Harry Potter eBooks through Google’s online bookstore. The open ePub format used by Google can be read on almost any eReader technology (with the notable exception of Amazon’s Kindle). If you don’t own an eBook reader, you can read ePub eBook files on your computer or mobile device. Google’s commission structure, especially for non-US sales, is generous. One has to ask what value a traditional retailer (or even a traditional publisher) could offer an author like Rowling who (admittedly because of her publisher’s original efforts) has already achieved her fame and following.
Easy availability of used a course in miracles bookstore is another factor working against bookstores. I went into a local Borders to see what was available at their liquidation sale. Plenty of interesting $15 books were reduced to $10 but I left empty-handed. Why? I can buy those same books second-hand for nearly nothing. I’m not a book collector; I’m a reader. Why pay high prices for the privilege of converting new books into used books by reading them? A quick Internet search connects me to dozens of book dealers selling cheap used copies of any title I desire. In fact, many readers go to bookstores only to browse the inventory. Using their phones, they scan the bar codes of books to locate cheaper copies online.
Internet bookstores carry a vastly larger selection than their physical counterparts. The average big bookstore carries 80,000 books. That’s not the number of titles; it’s the number of actual books. Though that sounds like a lot of books, it’s only a tiny fraction of the million new titles published every year. Amazon has over 7.5 million unique titles in stock and they’re much easier to browse electronically than they are sitting spine-out on a shelf.
eBooks, the availability of used books and online distribution are only part of the business climate change faced by traditional booksellers. With cheap books a click away, the costs of parking and local sales tax alone stack the odds against brick and mortar stores but publishers are also evolving and changing.