Author Chuck Wendig has a post I simply must direct you to: he calls it “Scenes from the Bookpocalypse.” Wendig describes some of the sights he and his wife witnessed at the closing of his local Borders bookstore. It’s both funny and poignant, and it particularly resonates with me because my wife and I also went to our local Borders (also closing) this weekend, then again on Monday when they dropped prices an additional 10%. We picked up a pretty good number of books between us, all stuff that we wouldn’t have purchased at full price, and in many cases, not even for Amazon’s usual discount on trade paperbacks. Not much left in the store now, I’ll bet, but if they dropped all prices another 10%, I’d head back. Wendig makes an interesting point: “People still want books, it seems. They just don’t want to pay full price.” The stores had been packed for these discount sales, though it was dead on Monday night, but obviously no one wanted to pay full retail price for books at Borders. Amazon has certainly helped drive down the reading public’s expectations for what they should have to pay for a new book. And traditional publishers’ prices for eBooks — often as much if not more than for a physical copy of the book — are nuts, especially when you compare them with the price that most “independent” authors sell their eBooks for: $0.99 – $2.99. That’s about what most people want to pay for a book that will take them a couple hours to finish, then they’ll never pick it up again.
And in a matter closely related, Borders is trying to get their bankruptcy judge to sign off on $8.3 million in “incentives and retention bonuses” for company “key employees.” CEO Michael Edwards alone will take home $1.7 million in bonuses if the judge signs off on the deal. Bet all those laid-off clerks and store managers are really rooting for Edwards and the “key” members of his team. Riddle me this, Batman — why exactly would a company want to retain the executives who led the company into bankruptcy, much less offer them bonuses to stay on? You and I both know that the deal will inevitably be approved and the bigwigs amply rewarded for doing a bad job of running the company. Another great example of Nero fiddling while Rome is burning.