Monday, February 14, 2011

"Book stores are going away."

Borders has filed for Chapter 11, and according to a story in the, they're expecting to close 50% of their locations within the next 5 years and 90% within the next 10. And then we have the quote I've used in the title: "Book stores are going away". Are they?

While the statement is sad, it seems to make sense. The world wide interwebs seem to have taken over the book market. Amazon's FY2009 media sales (books, DVDs, music) were almost $6 billion, eclipsing Barnes & Noble stores ($4.3 billion) and Borders/Walden ($2.65 billion). I know there are people that will buy practically anything online, but I usually like to actually physically handle the item before I purchase it. But books aren't in that category. I can be fairly certain I know what I'm going to get if I order a book (or a DVD) online. The only reason I don't order more books online is that I am amazingly impatient and want the book immediately. Amazon's sales show I'm not the only one that orders books online, and those online sales are hurting the brick and mortar places.

 I said one of the reasons I don't order books online more often is that I like the immediate satisfaction of having the book in my hand right away. Well the other thing chipping away at those book sales are eBooks. This past summer Amazon announced that eBooks outsold hardbacks. Clearly eBooks don't need an actual bookstore to sell their wares. So do these points mean that bookstores are going to be wiped from cities and suburbs? All book buying will need to directly involve a computer?

I don't doubt that online sales and eBooks are hurting bookstores in general, but I wonder if the bookstores that end up disappearing don't end up being the bigger chains. Will the smaller bookstores be able to weather this storm?  As it stands they seem to be closing at an alarming rate and people seem to have to make a special journey to a local bookstore out of a sense of community. How will their sales be affected by Borders closing? Will online and eBook sales more strongly affect the big box stores, leaving the small sellers behind when the dust has cleared? Or will they be taken down as well, and in the future we won't be able to walk into a store a pick up a new book? I've obviously not done any sort of analysis on what the answers could be but does anyone have any thoughts on the topic?

Chapter 11 for Borders, New Chapter for Books
Book Sales Statistics
E-Books Top Hardcovers at Amazon