Monday, February 28, 2011

Borders Sings the Blues (to the tune of bankruptcy)

Professor walks into a bookstore. Professor is looking for a copy of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Instead, Professor finds Jersey Shore’s J-WOWW signing books. A humorous anecdote told in my Literature of the West class by Professor Contreras may have incited a roar of laughter, but it should be sadly noted that, it’s funny because it’s true.

Bookstores are (and have been for some time) trading out literary icons such as Cormac McCarthy for 15-minutes of fame (or in this case, 3 seasons worth) pseudo celebrities, such as J-woww. In fact, the entire MTV reality crew is diving into the shallow pool of publishing; Snookie came out with a novel entitled A Shore Thing, while J-Woww opted for non-fiction to release her life lessons in The Rules According to J-woww.

Not only are bookstores selling out, they’re shutting down fast. Within weeks, Borders is slated to close a whole 200 stores across the country.

So who killed who first? Why all the dead Borders? While some surmise that it’s simply because people don’t read anymore, media doctors diagnose it with “a failure to understand the digital revolution.”

While back in the nineties, the battle in the world of books may have been; big chains vs. your local independent bookstore (i.e. You’ve Got Mail), now the opposing teams have multiplied thus resulting in one-huge-book-massacre. Now, it’s the big-chains versus the web, versus the ipad, the kindle, versus the fact that readers don’t read books!

The Ipad: Your new local bookstore?

Think about how much time the average person spends reading blogs, surfing the web, playing video games, watching tv in comparison to what that time-crunch may have been say, twenty even ten years ago. The media is going to war to win over your time and more importantly, you money. Why spend it on us when you can get it for free!

Media Industries Professor, Brian Rose offers some enlightenment to the situation: “The imminent death of bookstores, or more exactly chain bookstores, is, sadly, the inevitable result of overexpansion, pricey real estate (in a sour economy), and the inability to compete against online retailing. More pressingly, the continued growth of e-books (now 10% of all books sold), makes it difficult for chain bookstores to compete with the instant gratification available with a cheaper download. Very sad--but interestingly, it may mean that the only survivors are independent bookstores, who not only started the concept of book retailing, but have a much firmer grasp on how to reach their literate, neighborhood customers.”

So the demise of the chain doesn’t mean death for everyone, in fact it could mean a ressurecction for independent bookstores (like my personal favorite independent in the West Village THREE LIVES & CO.) Last year I wrote a paper in Rose's class about the demise of the Independent Bookstore and now we're bracing for its comeback? Talk about karma!

Oh, and Professor Contreras never did find that McCarthy book. Borders doesn't carry it.