When Borders went bankrupt it was more than the collapse of a major bookstore chain. According to this post by Joe Esposito in Scholarly Kitchen, it was “wake-up call to any publisher who takes its business ecosystem for granted, whether that publisher is in books, journals, or anything else.” Admittedly, the demise of Borders was in large measure due to new technology like the iPhone and the Kindle, strong competition from Amazon and numerous management mistakes by Border itself. However, according to this article it is indicative of a problem bigger that the loss of one bookstore chain. “The real thing to take from Borders’ collapse is that the old infrastructure will not always be there. In one stroke trade publishers lost a huge chunk of their distribution network.” And as the transition from print to ebooks continues there is a real danger that intermediaries that handle print distribution” will struggle to survive unless they “develop strong digital solutions.” There is also a bit of “catch 22” in all of this for publishers. They need to be mindful of the threat to this infrastructure because it will impact the profits from their legacy print business which in turn are crucial to support the transition to electronic formats – the very transition that is helping feed the threat in the first place.
Of course the question for many of us is what does all of this mean for libraries.