B&N and Borders going out of business is just one of the possible results of the recent Walmart pricing strategy ($8.99 hardcover) for their top 10 bestsellers.

So what happens next?

It seems pretty obvious that if these two chains go out of business then every publisher will be dramatically cutting their list. How many book titles does Walmart sell in a store? 100? There's no way publishers could publish the number of titles they do today if B&N and Borders brick & mortar stores didn't exist.

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"There's no way publishers could publish the number of titles they do today if B&N and Borders brick & mortar stores didn't exist."

This may not be a bad thing. I think there are too many books published each year as it is. The worst part of Borders and B&N going out of business is a lot of people would lose their jobs. That always sucks.

But as a reader, I couldn't care less if they go under as I buy all my books through Amazon anyway. Although, I would prefer if Borders and B&N get their acts together and be competitive with Amazon so that Amazon doesn't become a monopoly.
as a reader I think you would care. What if 90% less books ended up being published? If all that was being published were the safest + biggest bestsellers that populate Walmart? Publishers won't survive on their lesser titles from what they can sell through online.
That would be great. That means as an author, my competition has just been reduced by 90%. Now I can write my own books and have a better chance of selling them myself as there will be fewer books for customers to wade through.

That won't happen, though. There's still Amazon and there is still the ability for authors to sell books directly to their readers. And anyway. Borders and B&N are not essential to the market. If they die, something else will take its place. If not another brick and mortar store, then some other way (such as authors selling directly over the internet or something else not thought up yet) will come along.

As long as there are people who want to read something besides the bestsellers there will be those books for sale somewhere. I believe the time is soon approaching when publishers have overstayed their welcome. Distribution is becoming easier. At some point, publishers as they exist now won't be needed.
Really, though, how many books other than those safe, big sellers do the chains sell? If we're talking about adult fiction, then not many. How much of their business is hardcover fiction sales?

In Canada our two big chains merged and it was supposed to be the 'death of the indie bookstore,' but that hasn't happened. The recession has done a lot more damage.

I think John D is right, if big publishers and big bookstores don't fulfill the demand it will get filled by smaller publishers and smaller bookstore or online sales. I don't think the big bookstores have done all that much to create demand.

The industry is changing a lot, no doubt, but there is very little dmand that is not supplied in North America. Hell, marijuana is illegal and those suppliers can't keep up with demand. If there's still demand for books (and why would people who read now stop just because the bookstores are gone - I know I won't stop buying books) there'll be a supply.
I don't think WalMart's selling the top ten at a loss is likely to tip B&N into the abyss--they're evidently in pretty good shape. Borders is another story, perhaps, since they're teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. I think the eventual outcome will be that B&N buys Borders, closes a bunch of unprofitable or competing stores, and we go on more or less as usual.
I spent a couple of Borders gift cards yesterday, looking for titles I heard good things about at Bouchercon that I didn;t pick up in Indianapolis. Of the 13 books on my list, Borders had 3. Most of the authors on my list weren't even represented. I'm not talking about first tme writers on small presses; many of these were writers with respected names in the mystery community. (Victor Gischler, Megan Abbott, James Crumley, to name a few.) Another Borders about the same distance away has an even less representative stock.

Speaking from a mystery reader/writer perspective, if this is the best they can do, will they be missed all that much? They're worth supporting just to keep people working, but I don't know how valuable a function they servein the grand scheme of keeping writers in the black.
I don't shop Borders or Barnes & Noble. Neither is author-friendly. On the whole, I consider them hostile to my series.

Considering that the only books affected will be the current bestsellers, and that the big book stores will either cut their prices on these also or stop carrying them, the damage will only accrue to the publishers and authors of bestsellers.
That might level the playing field.
IJ, Walmart is selling these at a loss, so in the short term it will benefit these authors and publishers. Walmart is selling Stephen King's Under the Dome, for example at $7.50 below their cost. I doubt B&N and Borders can have such loss leaders given their current business situation, and both their business models rely on these top sellers attracting consumers into their stores who will then pick up other books. So this move could end up being devastating to them, as well as some of the independents.

It doesn't matter whether or not B&N or Borders has been author friendly, or even sells the crime novels/mysteries we write or want to buy--what matters is if they're taken out of the distribution equation for most (probably all) of the large publishers, these houses will mostly likely severely cut the number of books they publish, which will make it even much tougher for you (and a lot of other authors) to find your next publisher, as well as make it nearly impossible for new authors to break in.

I know there's a lot of dogma being preached here about how smaller publishers will take the place of the larger publishers who shut their doors, e-book publishing leveling the playing field, etc., well, sure, there probably will be even more underfunded small presses popping up who pay no advances and will have close to no distribution, and the e-book stores will come to resemble Walmart where the top sellers get lots of display while the 100s of thousands of self-published and small press books are buried in a swamp. I don't either of these are what authors aspire to.
I've already been there. My first two books were published by Harcourt, but when they merged, or were bought out, or whatever ot was, with Houghton Miflin they dropped pretty much their whole adult fiction line ad I was looking for a new publisher the day my books came out.

What's going on isn't happening in order to drive the other bookstores out of business, it's happening because so few books sell so many copies. People just don't buy many books past the bestsellers, so bestsellers can be used as loss leaders to get people into department stores. Bookstores are vulnerable. Yes, it will be bad for writers, but like farmers, everything that happens is bad for writers.

If these bookstore chains cose down it will get a little harder for the midlist. Well, it's always hard for the midlist.

And really, this model of paying big advances and then selling books on consingment has been due to change for a while. It's not a system you could start now.
John, Walmart is selling these online, so it's not to get people into their stores. This is predatory, where they're going after amazon (trying to undersell their $9.99 e-book price), but also hurting B&N and Borders, possible knocking them out (I hope Jon's scenario is closer).

This past year has been brutal--if you watch Publishers Marketplace, weeks where you'd typically have 10-20 crime, thriller, mystery announcements you'd see 0 or maybe 1 or 2. Myself, my two publishers, Serpent's Tail and Overlook Press, have been doing well during this time, probably because their focus is to sell high quality fiction over perceived "commercial value", so I'm selling books, but I'm trying to look at the industry not my own narrow situation. As bad as it's been for the midlist, it's going to get a lot worse if these chains go under.
Online sales are different because they aren't on consignent. Publishers claim that a bog factor in the price of the book is the cost associated with returns. Which makes sense, they have to put up the capital for the big print run and then deal with the books that come back. Eliminating those returns by adjusting the print run to fit the pre-orders on these books should lower the cost of the books.

For years the theory has been that publishers can publish all us midlisters is because the big sellers make them enough profit to reinvest. You could probably blame a lot of this on Total Quality Management theories that hit in the 80's all over the business world.

And yes, I think it will get tougher for the midlisters. Even if these chains stay in business, they aen't selling very many midlister books, as Dana pointed out, they aren't even stocking them.
It's been my experience that bookstores tend to turn the screws to get discounts from publishers. If we accept that Walmart and others sell certain books at a loss, isn't it predictable that this will be for a short span of time only -- unless the publisher is willing to lower their price? Isn't it also predictable that other publisher will offer such discounts in order to get their books "out there"? They alrady discount books heavily to Costco and other big box stores.

I don't know what the future holds for the big houses. Much deoends on how they rethink their business plans. I do know that viable authors are being forced out in order to show higher profitability. It is likely that these authors will go to small publishers where they may well force someone else out. Of course, the authors will have to accept increasingly lower advances and return larger portions of them in promotional expenses.

I'm very skeptical about electronic publishing. It still has to prove itself. Initial successes as those by Konrath and Doctorow aren't terribly likely to be duplicated by everyone else.

My hope is for mailorder sales. Amazon has done more for me than the actual bookstores, and what's more, it keeps all my books on its "shelves.". As long as we have libraries (and that's a whole other issue), readers can sample new authors there and then order other books from Amazon.


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