Sunday, February 13, 2011


First rule of (corporate) survival: don't take risks.

Borders books is filing for bankruptcy protection. Like Powell's in Seattle, they can't figure out how to sell books.

To be fair, they can't figure out how to sell crap books. People would buy XKCD and Penny Arcade, but they don't have to at Borders. Borders probably doesn't even know of those strips. Borders has no A&R - no filters. Nobody at Borders (or B&N, for that matter) reads, so they don't tell anyone "no!"

Both stores have shelf space dedicated to the NY Times Bestsellers. Who cares? How many of the last singles you bought on iTunes are on the Billboard charts? (zero for me). Those bestseller lists are completely gamed - just like Google's search results. They don't reflect anything real - the legions of purchase-bots that buy the latest spew from their ideologues are motivated by fear, not affinity.

Booksellers don't know what's real.

Borders isn't completely down and out, that is if they feel like taking a risk. Current signs point to a company in survival/preservation mode, and that mentality won't let you take risks. So they're putting more cheap plastic on shelves instead of cheap books.

This is the wrong approach. I can buy cheap plastic crap anywhere.

But cool places to hang out (and hook up?) are always in high demand. Look at the goofy teens in B&N on Saturday night. Coffee and "study?" Mating rituals, folks.

Borders may not have any good filters right now, but they do have one thing: real estate. Square footage, and they don't know what to do with it.

But I do.

There is huge demand for (good) live music, and a large supply of artists that can bring in 50-100 people per show, but not 500-1000. And right now, the vast majority of venues that are open to this class of performer are bars/clubs.

And those places SUCK. Management turnover is 99%, you never know who's running sound, if they're even sober, if there's even sound at the venue, is it 18 and up? 21 only? Will they still be open in three months when your appearance is booked? Are they going to stiff you on the door? Is the facility even clean? Are you going to catch a disease from a doorknob?

But Borders doesn't have these problems. The facilities are clean and all-ages accessible. They're almost always an anchor store, so they're close to other services (like food, etc.) The absence of alcohol means parents can send their kids to a show at Borders and feel ok about it.

It also means Borders would have to reinvent itself, and I don't know if that's on the table. It means they'd have to start working with musicians, which brings its own set of logistics and problems, but they're not insurmountable. The new generation of performing musicians need a place to grow, and Borders needs feet in their stores.

It's there, but only if they're willing to risk it.


Nathan said...

Wow... that's actually not a bad idea at all. You should pitch it to them and see if they'll give you a corner for a coffee & music night.

Anonymous said...

You are annoyingly stupid, Mr I Know Everything. You think anyone at Borders is going to care what you think anyway? Youve never worked in a book store. What is your great accomplishment?

Go back to what ever it is you do all day and stop talking about things you know nothing about.