The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Borders bookstore chain will probably file for bankruptcy early next week. I get very tired of posting to articles that you can't read unless you have a (not inexpensive) subscription, so here's the HuffPo version. On the other hand, the reason I pay for a WSJ subscription is because the original article contains analysis like:
Online shopping, and the advent of e-readers, with their promise of any book, any time, anywhere, and cheaper pricing, have shoppers abandoning Borders and Barnes & Nobles bookstores as they did music stores a decade ago.
"I think that there will be a 50% reduction in bricks-and-mortar shelf space for books within five years, and 90% within 10 years," says Mike Shatzkin, chief executive of Idea Logical Co., a New York consulting firm. "Book stores are going away."
Not that you should always trust what consultants say--they tend to say whatever is most likely to get people to hire consultants--but fundamentally I agree that many book stores are going to go away, in particular non-niche stores. (That has long been true of non-niche independent bookstores, which pretty much got wiped off the map by the rise of chains like Borders.) I live near a Barnes & Noble, and whenever I go there, either I can't find what I'm looking for, or when I find it, it costs more than on Amazon and the buying process is somehow much more annoying (there's a long line, and the only other clerk would rather answer the phone than run the cash register; or, the only copy of the book has been beaten within an inch of its life by some inconsiderate slob, and then reshelved as though there was nothing wrong with it).
So, yes, I'm betting pretty heavily on Amazon. Another reason that I'm optimistic about their prospects is that they've figured out how to make money selling books--in particular, e-books--cheaply while paying waaaay-better-than-industry-standard royalties to writers. That's led to some high-profile author defections from traditional publishing. Publishing is both a business and an industry, and in business, anyone who can figure out how to reduce the cost of production without sacrificing quality is going to own the industry. It's that simple.
ETA: And Monday brings another really good WSJ article you probably can't read about how the closing of Borders stores is going to affect publishing. Basically they're predicting that it's going to further restrict distribution (ominously, when Borders shut down in the UK in 2009, it didn't help sales at the other chains), and they say that traditional publishers are getting more cautious about new writers because there's not that network of book stores to promote them any more. E-book are going to become more important (obviously), as is word-of-mouth and customer reviews--which might actually level the playing field for small presses and independent authors. (That's it! That's what I'll call myself! "An independent author." Sounds good, no? Like I actually know what I'm doing or something.)
In other words: Go review Trang!