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Thursday, November 26, 2009

What has Borders ever done for us?

So Borders has gone into administration. Everybody in publishing has seen it coming for a while. As was the case with Woolworths a year ago the credit insurers withdrew their backing and the big book companies had to stop supplying them on the grounds that they wouldn't get paid. It's bad news for 1,000 employees, I don't doubt it's heartbreaking for the management, who bought the company from the previous owners a year ago, and also the book publishing companies. This closure puts even more power in the hands of Amazon. At the moment this offers a splendid service for bookbuyers but sooner or later the temptation to flex its muscles is going to be irresistible. Before I bought Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" recently (list price of £25) I checked the discount prices at Borders and Waterstones before getting it from Amazon for £8.99 with no delivery charge. It takes a lot of coffee aroma to compete with that. The result of all this price competition is those tables groaning with three for two offers on paperbacks. You can afford the money for these books but with the best will in the world you can't afford the time to read them all.

Magazines will suffer equally from Borders problems. Since launching in the UK ten years ago the company has given a staggering amount of space to magazines, many of which couldn't possibly be finding buyers. There was no doubt some economic sense behind this. Magazines attract people into shops. Men killing time while their wives are in The Gap next door. Children who need entertaining. As a consequence it appeared to become a dumping ground for every cult title from every part of the world. A couple of years ago, when somebody launched a popular art magazine, I assumed it was the first one. I went into Borders in Charing Cross Road and discovered there were at least twelve.

If you're a Borders shopper and feel like putting food on my table by buying a subscription to Word at very advantageous rates there's a link here.