Monday, February 14, 2011

The Book Business

So it's happened...after months and months of teetering on the edge; Borders has gone under.  They declared bankruptcy today.  Some of you might be shrugging your shoulders.  "Big deal," I can hear you saying.  Well, just so you know, it is a big deal.  Things are in lock down mode.  Staff aren't being paid, and debts, including those to publishers & distributors aren't getting paid either.  That means that vulnerable publishers don't have money to pay royalties or go ahead with printing spring and maybe even fall lists.  I already know of a few writers who've had books cancelled, and the list serves are abuzz with talk about what all this means.  Don't forget, this event isn't in isolation.  Last week HB Fenn (a publisher and one of Canada's largest distributors) went down, and  the week before Key Porter Books closed show...and Key Porter books have published some of the biggest names in books in Canada, including Margaret Atwood!  It's so discouraging to be involved in books right now.  Senior writers are worried if they'll have enough money to pay their bills, and so many of us had gone back to part-time work to keep the wolf from the door.

I know there will always be readers, and books will always be published in one form or another.  But with it being less lucrative to publish, will only a few houses and on-line book giants control what is available?  Will vibrant young writers bursting with ideas and talent want to be involved in a business that can't support them?  It's all so worrisome...and I can only hope that there are still a few out there who will want to take chances, who will want to bring out books that are just safe but push creative and intellectual boundaries.  I look forward things settling down in the book business soon.  But I hope we don't end up with a mediocre model.  I know it's hard to be creative when financial worries keep knocking at your door, but I also know that books change lives.

All of you out there who've been touched by this have my every sympathy.

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