Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thoughts on Borders...

The news of Borders closing so many stores has been all around lately, even on this blog. Most people are lamenting the loss of so many bookshops in one swell foop, but --and maybe I am just having a crabby day--I am finding little sympathy for the folks at this big box chain. While I certainly don't wish joblessness on people, it's hard for me to move past the aggravations and inhospitable attitudes I've received at Borders and Waldenbooks over the dozen years of OTP's life.

At a personal call at a Borders/Waldenbooks store, trying to introduce OTP books, one invariably gets their corporate contact number and the information the you have to apply and go through their process for being added to their catalog. Their process for adding a book into their inventory system was a never-ending maze of phone tree selections, forms to complete and fax in, pitch letters, sample books, cover flats, sometimes sending sample packages with marketing plans, and waiting months before they tell you "sorry."

Some stores have been wonderful, of course. When I lived in California, the nearest large bookstore to me was a fabulous Borders in Claremont with a coffee shop and a great manager. However, after visiting, either in person or by telephone, with hundreds of stores all around the US over the years, I can tell you this is the exception, not the rule. I've been told that the books were out-of-print when they weren't, unreturnable when they weren't, not available through Ingram or BT when in fact they were, and so on. And don't confuse them with facts! The experiences are right out of the cliche "Who will you believe, me or your lying eyes?" A cordial, helpful experience was very rare, and rarer still was the occasion that they would stock a book or host an author.

I long ago switched my personal buying away from the big box stores. I still love and support the indies, even though sometimes they can be prickly too, and also prompt payment for direct orders is a rarity. Nonetheless, I see indie stores as I do indie publishers...true believers who are going to keep offering good reads to readers no matter what.

The majority of my personal reading books are ordered from Amazon. In addition to great selection, great service and the option to buy without leaving my chair, there is the point that since 1999, they have given OTP books a level playing field with the big house books. We get the same detail page, the same display opportunities, and access to the same free and fee promotional options. We get the same crack at hitting one of their bestseller lists as a book from Random or Putnam. And they will stock the books I add to my Advantage account, no muss, no fuss. It's really hard to beat.

Borders/Waldenbooks could have taken this attitude, but didn't...proving again that, as your mother always told you, it's a good idea to be nice!

Billie (stepping down from soapbox and returning to work now)

1 comment:

Monti said...

Dealing with the big book stores is too often not much fun. Earlier this week, a friend of mine in Richmond, VA went to her local B&N to get them to order my book, Secrets by the Sea. While they said they would try to get it for her and would let her know within a week, they also said it was "publish on demand" and made it sound like some sort of dread disease.

Last September, I went for my book signing at a B&N in Williamsburg where I discovered they had none of my books (because of POD) and were counting on me to furnish them. Fortunately, I usually carry some in my car, so I was able to furnish them that day. When I left the store following the event, they had me sign an invoice for payment later from headquarters. It took numerous phone calls and a visit to the store to finally get payment which came by check last week! Of course, that has made me hesitate to arrange other book signings at B&N stores. An exception is the Short Pump B&N (also in Richmond) where they have gotten my books for signings and where they keep some in the local authors section.

Mary Montague Sikes