[Web4lib] eBooks

Steven E. Patamia, Ph.D. patamia at gmail.com
Mon Mar 7 21:43:16 EST 2011


    Thank you for filling me in on the prior history.  Going public is
certainly a survivability crisis of many enterprises.  Emulating a
competitor instead of competing by being distinct is  well correlated with
eventual failure.  My favorite recent example -- and one I have a lot of
contact with -- is  Whole foods.  Going public and acquiring Wild Oats
nearly killed them -- as their stock chart clearly shows.  Even now CEO John
Mackey has not been paying himself more than a dollar a year just so they
could make ends meet (caveat, this might have changed recently -- there is a
lag time in some of my knowledge.)  Even more intriguing and apropos to you
comments about Borders, John has had this paranoia for some time that
WallMart was his existential threat and he has been playing games with the
inventory to compete with them as a low cost purveyor of organic foods.
 Imagine it -- Whole Foods trying to compete with WallMart by emulating
them!  Its unbelievably stupid -- to me anyway -- and it really hasn't
worked all that well in the store I know the most about (which is one of
their top stores).  Anyway, I did see the variety within topics I was
personally interested in decline at Borders.  Until recently I had no larger
perspective to understand the origins of what was happening.  Thanks for
filling in some more of that perspective.

But! About B&N...  There is no B&N where I now live so I have not been able
to observe what you report.  I would caution, however, that the parking lot
at the large Borders which is closing near here was usually also full -- its
just that profitability was declining.  I could also sense some loss of
enthusiasm in the customer base, but again, had no other big box bookseller
nearby to compare them too.  Funny aside, though... I was a severe critic of
Borders' coupon campaign.  I hated it and told them so -- and it sure didn't
save them.  That's anecdotal, but I have to wonder how many less outspoken
consumers also hate the elaborate distracting and convoluted coupon systems
that pop up.  The one at Borders was distinctly inane and I almost
never benefited from it myself.

If you find out that B&N really was doing significantly better and can
imagine why, I'd love to hear what you think the reason is.

On Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 5:14 PM, Jesse Ephraim <jephraim at roanoketexas.com>wrote:

> >It suggested that the real reason Borders was in
> >Chapter 11 had mostly to do with the ever plummeting
> >level of quality and ever rising sticker price for
> >published fiction works.
> Borders has been on a severe downward slope since they bought
> Waldenbooks and became a publicly traded company in the early 1990s.
> They used to have stores that were far superior to their B&N
> equivalents.  When the Borders brothers sold the chain, though,
> everything devolved rapidly, to the point where they purposely cut the
> number of titles in each store down to the level of B&N's.  I was there
> to see it happen, and the writing has been on the wall ever since.  I'm
> amazed that they have avoided bankruptcy for so long.
> To me, the more interesting questions revolve around Barnes & Noble,
> especially since I almost always see full parking lots when I drive by
> them.
> Jesse Ephraim
> Director, Roanoke Public Library
> 308 S. Walnut
> Roanoke, Texas 76262
> (817) 491-2691
> jephraim at roanoketexas.com
> From: Steven E. Patamia, Ph.D. [mailto:patamia at gmail.com]
> Sent: Monday, March 07, 2011 5:16 PM
> To: Laura
> Cc: Jesse Ephraim; web4lib at webjunction.org
> Subject: Re: [Web4lib] eBooks
> Yes, Laura has a valid analogy. There is, however, one unsolved problem
> in that situation... how do you at least reward the composers and
> performers enough for them to justify their creative effort and any
> publication expenses?
> This is a really interesting problem in desperate search of some
> imaginative and fair solution.  It is a problem shared by publishers of
> fiction.  I think rich fiction is important and don't mind if others can
> make a living at it at levels high enough to be sustaining.  I don't
> have the answer... but I think eliminating the publishers as we know
> them is, in the end, a very good thing both for society as a whole and
> for the many authors who never get exposed because the publishers decide
> who will get published. Those decisions, though sometimes not
> inconsistent with societal interests, end up making some authors very
> wealthy at the expense of everyone else except the publishers.
> There was, by the way, an article in the NYT a week or two ago that is
> insightful with respect to the final sentences of the foregoing
> paragraph.  It suggested that the real reason Borders was in Chapter 11
> had mostly to do with the ever plummeting level of quality and ever
> rising sticker price for published fiction works.  The argument was that
> the big box stores were in thrall to their main publishing suppliers and
> that sales in all large book stores were negatively impacted by waning
> customer interested in over-sold topics and sequels especially at
> inflated prices compelled by publishers.  I think the bookstore problem
> is even bigger, but that the point made has validity.   The article
> opined that all large bookstores were victims of this phenomenon and
> that Borders simply was the first to take the hit.  The key point is
> that I am not alone in identifying the publishers and their control as a
> bad thing -- apparently not just for readers, but for bookstores as
> well.
> Hmm... there are no doubt some libertarian leaning readers who want to
> trash me right now... if so please have at it.  I expect I can handle
> it<g>.
> On Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 3:55 PM, Laura <labedzla at gmail.com> wrote:
> It's essentially the same thing that happened to the recording industry
> with the advent of the mp3, napster, and ipod.
> I'd imagine we'll see a similar outcome. And it won't benefit the
> entrenched publishers.
> As Justin Timberlake's character said in the Social Network: "We lost in
> court, but we still won. Do you want to buy a Tower Records?"
> Laura
> --
Steven E. Patamia, Ph.D., J.D.
Personal Cell: (352) 219-6592

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