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I'm a business journalist and a fiction author. My novel Mute is available now from Silver Leaf Books.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Borders books goes bust? Not all is lost

Most accounts of the fall of Borders bookstores into bankruptcy have blamed digital media - ebooks, iTunes and movie downloads - for making its products obsolete. While that is part of the story, that's nothing more than an excuse for a company that couldn't adapt to the changes in its industry.

When you can order most anything online, it becomes more important for retail stores to have an atmosphere that customers want to habitat. Not merely pop in and out, but spend time there in a social sense. That's what a great bookstore must offer to have any value.

A book is the same whether it's purchased in a store, ordered online or downloaded. It's the experience of the bookstore that is valuable and that's something Borders hasn't promoted enough. That starts with engaging with the community of passionate readers and authors and attracting them to the store with events. Not just sales and book signings, but cultural events and discussion groups. Funny, but isn't that what small books stores used to offer before the national chains wiped many of them out?

As an author, it's a shame when the number of places books are available is cut by 300, as in the stores Borders reportedly plans to close. We have to accept that a new model of publishing is coming into focus. The bookstore and even the publisher are becoming disposable middlemen. The future is author-to-marketing-to-reader.

But the transition to that future will be messy.