The Rise & Fall of a Book Empire

I am sure many of you have been following with great interest the fall of REDgroup. And as a result, things are not looking pretty for the Borders chain in Australia or our largest book retailer, Angus & Robertson.

I can remember just how excited I was when the first Borders store opened in Brisbane. As a consumer of poetry in this city, it provided a much needed avenue for the purchase of quality poetry, much of which, the independents were not stocking. Since that time (and particularly during the last 5-years), I have watched stocks dissipate and prices rise… the initial buzz of the place, long gone. Thankfully, many of the independents – Riverbend Books, Avid Reader & Folio – have stepped up and their poetry sections have become more dynamic, though it must be said, there is room for improvement, as they are a far cry from Sydney based independent, gleebooks.

A rise in online sales and the much debated parallel importing of books have been blamed for the demise of REDgroup, but for mine, there has to be more to it than that… with that in mind, this article is well worth reading:

10 lessons from the collapse of Borders and Angus & Robertson

Let’s hope that immediate job cut backs are not the first course of action, but with the news that customers have been told that they must spend double the amount of any outstanding vouchers to redeem their value, I am far from confident.

Sad times indeed…


Filed under discussions, poetry & publishing

7 responses to “The Rise & Fall of a Book Empire

  1. Strange times ahead, it is a brave new world. Too many businesses are still relying on old business models, Borders had a strong online presence, though overpriced, and had “embraced” ebooks, but this was not enough. Book stores require more than strategic real estate and franchised coffee stands, readers are a passionate bunch that cannot be appeased with a simple purchase, I like to discuss a book with the book seller, glean a rough critique and recommendations. I got some great books from Borders in the past (All Poets Welcome is one that stands out on my shelves) but always felt a bit disheartened when handing them over the counter just to have them shoved in a bag and shuffled along. The only thing that cannot be synthesised and digitised is character (and love!) and this was a glaring omission in the leviathan that was Borders.
    I hope this wasn’t too emotive a comment but, as a Gleebooks / Better Read Than Dead customer I know what I want in a book shop. Thanks for the opportunity to rant.

    • Ashley

      I agree with Mark that the ‘big box’ bookstores are relying on outdated methods. I don’t see how any big store can compete with the online retailers: pricewise, they lack any advantage versus Amazon et al, and more important, they lack the ambience of independent stores and the knowledge/love/passion of small booksellers.

      My feeling is that while the bankruptcy of Borders is obviously a disaster for that particular chain and a harbinger of things to come for other stores, it might also indicate that independent book stores will begin to regain their old share of sales. It is also possible that, without the big stores towering over them, they will thrive more than they ever did before the advent of the internet. A lot of readers, myself included, prefer the knowledge and variety offered by independent sellers to the strictly low price objective of online stores.

      (Having said all of that, I have to admit that our Borders have always had a wonderful poetry section; much, much better than what is on offer at Barnes & Noble. In recent years, however, the poetry has been giving away to clearance items and junky children’s merchandise.)

    • gnunn

      Mark, that is exactly the type of passion that I feel… to have All Poets Welcome just stuffed in a bag, without conversation… well, that’s just not right. Borders never bothered about skilling their staff in the art of talking books and this was one of the biggest drawbacks of the chain. I recently read somewhere that books can’t be sold like potatoes and in a way, that’s what big book chains try to do… long live the vibrant independent bookstore!

  2. The 10 points are excellent! I’m afraid I am a big Amazon fan, mainly because I am an hours drive from a bookshop and because the books I buy are about 30% cheaper (including freight) online than bought in Australia and it is so convenient. If I am in a big city I prefer to get lost in a bookshop. I feel really sorry for all the staff who will lose their jobs because of the collapse of the chain.

    • gnunn

      I so prefer the intimacy of a bookstore, but increasingly, the market for poetry is moving into the online realm. That is why places like Collected Works in Melbourne, must be cherished forever!

  3. jb

    surely there is just one rule..

    be better.

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