What Would You Do to Save Borders?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

Borders Magic Shelf

By Edward Nawotka

It always seems like drama surrounds the big digital publishing conferences. In January 2010, attendees at the first annual Digital Book World eagerly awaited the announcement of the iPad. This year at Tools of Change in New York people have greeted the official announcement that Borders Book Group has filed for bankruptcy with a variety of reactions, ranging from “So?” to “Oh, no!”

Throughout the day, we surveyed several TOC attendees to see what they would do to save Borders.

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.com, suggested that “Borders get closer to Kobo — the only way for Borders to be saved is if it can build up a strong e-bookstore just as Barnes & Noble has done.”

Robin Lenz, managing editor of Shelf Awareness, floated the idea of running it as a franchise operation. She said: “Instead of running it as a big chain badly, let individual booksellers who know what they are doing take the existing spaces and work with that.”

Richard Nash, founder of Cursor, pointed out that “anything that needs to be saved isn’t worth saving.” But, he added, “It has to become radically skinnier– perhaps 50-100 really well managed, large niche stores scattered around America’s college towns.”

Patricia Arancibia, Manager of International Content at US bookseller Barnes & Noble’s Digital Group, said she was specifically concerned about the two Borders stores in Puerto Rico. “The one on the Plaza de Americas is the bestselling Borders in the entire world and the bestseller of Spanish-language books in the United States protectorate. These two stores in Puerto Rico have their own staff of buyers and they have an avid audience for their books and they sell very well. So what I suggest is they work together with some of the very interesting independent publishers in Puerto Rico, and with help from here, set up a co-op to sell titles in English and Spanish and provide for the whole island.”

Now, tell us, what do you think can be done to save Borders?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka is the Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. A former foreign correspondent, he has covered the book business exclusively since 2000, serving as daily news editor for Publishers Weekly and columnist for Bloomberg News.