BN vs Amazon for What’s Left of Books

As Borders closes, their discounts on books increase.

Books are dying. Actually, if you believe the pundits, almost all of print is dying.

As someone who used to work in print publishing, I see many friends looking for new jobs. So, yeah, I tend to agree with the pundits on this one. Books are dying, and I am not happy about it.

As Borders closes the book on their business as booksellers, you can’t help but wonder what’s next for the entire publishing business. As an author of four books (and a fifth one coming!), I am more than just a little concerned about the untimely but not entirely surprising demise of this significant retailer.

Year after bloody year, we’ve seen sales of books slip. Even the venerable comic book industry — fueled by hit movies and collectors — cannot slow sliding print sales. (Try reading that sentence out loud.)

Amazon and Barnes & Nobles took relatively large gambles releasing the Kindle and Nook on unproven technology in a largely unproven market. They are selling more ebooks than print books (in certain categories) and more titles are moving in this inevitable direction. (My most recent book is available as an ebook on, Amazon, and even iTunes as a download.)

Based on what we’re seeing in the market place, I’d give Barnes & Nobles a 60/40 chance of surviving. In this case, 60% chance of survival because they are now the last standing super retailer. Publisher and consumers have few choices, so they are going to go to Barnes & Nobles for most of their brick and mortar purchases. And while many people are shopping online, there are still many who prefer to shop at a physical store. Here, Barnes & Nobles has a true advantage.

The Nook is also an excellent ereader that brought a sharp color screen and a snappy Android operating system at a surprisingly affordable price. will likely keep serving this market with downloadable ebooks, which will keep the online business active even if the retail stores struggle.

Amazon, I give a 110% rate of surviving. Not only do I think they will survive the print downturn, I think they will thrive with the Kindle and ebook publishing in general. Even if people don’t use their Kindle hardware, they may like using the Kindle software on iPad and Android reading devices.

Amazon is a scary good competitor with an unbelievable online selection of books and ebooks. They have incredibly competitive prices and a reseller and affiliate network that is generating big, big sales. Heck, they sell everything, so they have a pretty compelling one-stop-shop environment.

While I lament the sales of print books, I am somewhat hopeful that ebook readers will pick up the slack. It’s quite nice to read off a Kindle or Nook. Once people get used to the experience, they forget it’s digital and just enjoy the reading.

In the future, you have to wonder if kids of today will even graduate with books. My kids are already using ereader devices around the house, so books are just things that take up space. For them, the story is everything.

True “book people” will continue to buy books as long as the presses run, but eventually the print book may be a collectible or keepsake, as digital publishing becomes the primary channel of distribution.

As an author, I wonder what will become of book festivals where people come up and have you sign the inside of their book. Will I sign the back of a Kindle? (Probably not.)

No matter what happens, ebooks are changing the way we read books and the closing of Borders will change the way we buy them.

Next chapter.



7 thoughts on “BN vs Amazon for What’s Left of Books

  1. I have the NookColor and although I have it I also like reading my books from actual paper copies most of the time. I am 21 years old and I have two daughters. My imagination on what their education will be like differs with each passing day but I believe that the paper copy of a book is far better and has more impact than the digital devices we read from today. Think about the memories we get when reading a book that we turn the page and hear and feel it’s pages. If not only that what about the distinct aroma each book may have that may bring a long forgotten memory of the past to the present. Do paper books take up space? Yes! But it honestly depends on which you prefer. Like I stated before I use both digital and non-digtal books, I just prefer the comfort of a non-digital book.

  2. Well, that depends. If you are an author selling books at conventions, ebooks dont give you much to sell to readers. It’s going to change the live-author event significantly.

  3. Your kids will probably graduate school with ebooks, not paper books. It’s sort of a shame, but they will adapt, since the technology will not seem new to them as it seems to us.

    It would seem that the first books that could go digital would be educational books. As schools look for ways to cut, they will probably run the numbers and see that it’s cheaper to buy a Nook or Kindle and load it with ebooks.


  4. I have always imagined one day having a floor to ceiling, wall to wall library in my home, so this is very sad to me.  While I do read ebooks on  my iPhone and eReader, there is something special about feeling the pages, the cover, and there’s the smell, too.  

  5. Aryn,

    I dont know, I dont think that the ebook revolution necessarily means an immediate or even long-term death of the printed book. 

    There are still a LOT of printed books out there and I think that publishers will still make certain books in print. I think that they will just be more selective of the books they actually print. 

    Many books will become ebooks, I suspect, and then if they are successful enough, they may also become print books. That kind of path will reduce the number of printed books, but make the ones that are printed more “special” to the people who buy them.

    So that wall of books? I think you should still keep filling the shelves.


  6. Buddy,
    Yes, it will change. However, we must remember that commerce will always try to find ways to ensure people will pay for something. I can picture a live-author signing event where a fan can immediately download a authorized author-signing edition while waiting in line for them to have the author sign the digital screen to personalize the book for the one time. This of coarse will come at a higher price than the standard edition…do not underestimate the industrys ability to see profit.

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