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Breaking: Bye bye, Borders


It’s official….as everyone expected, Borders, the book chain that spearheaded the rise of graphic novels in the good years, has failed to find a buyer and will be liquidated, perhaps as soon as this Friday.

Borders, which employs about 10,700 people, scrapped a bankruptcy-court auction scheduled for Tuesday amid the dearth of bids. The U.S.’s second-largest bookstore chain said it would ask a judge Thursday to approve a sale to liquidators led by Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group.

Borders’s liquidation of its remaining 399 stores could start as soon as Friday and the bookstore chain is expected to go out of business for good by the end of September, the company said.

On that note, please join us at Comic-Con for our Sunday panel:

1:00-2:00 PW: What Comes After the Graphic Novel?— With Borders’s bankruptcy shaking the publishing world and the health of brick-and-mortar stores everywhere being watched anxiously, the world of comics publishing is entering a new world of tablets, websites and, yes, good old comics shops. Join PW Comics World co-editor Heidi MacDonald in a discussion with publishing professionals as they take a look at what’s next on the horizon. Participants include Judy Hansen, Hansen Literary Agency; Portlyn Freeman, co-owner, Brave New World Comics; Jeff Webber, eBooks director, IDW; and Terry Nantier, NBM publisher. Room 25ABC

We’ll discuss what this means and the future of bookselling. Listen, it’s not all bad.

  1. This is sad for all those that work there. My local Borders was a social gathering spot of sorts with live music, open mic,visual art, it will be missed.

  2. I would quibble with your lead here. Borders did not “spearhead the rise of graphic novels”— comic book specialty stores did that.

    What Borders (and the rest of the mass market) has been is the bulk of the growth of the graphic novel business.

    There is a difference.

  3. I’unno, Joe, I think “spearhead the rise of graphic novels” is a fair thing to credit Borders with . . . they may not have been what inspired book-bound comics in the first place, but they did bring them to an audience outside of people who frequent comics shops, resulting in many new readers whose primary comics experience was in book format rather than periodicals, leading to the current environment where GNs are for many publishers the primary -and for some publishers the /only/ – method of publication.

    Could all of that have happened without Borders? It’s possible, but barring some sort of alternate universe where direct market stores all successfully, simultaneously courted “mainstream” customers, I have a hard time picturing /how/.

  4. …but they did bring them to an audience outside of people who frequent comics shops…

    The public only counts if they go to a direct market store. Haven’t you been paying attention to the recent business news?

  5. Nope. When I was in DC, 1994-97, the GN market was minimal, both in comics shops and bookstores. Even the publishers who had bookstore distribution (viz, dc, marvel, dark horse, first, warp, cartoon books) barely published two books a month. If comics shops were so influential, why then the lean years after the mainstream publishers left the category in the late 80s?

    It was not until Pokemon in 1999 that
    manga exploded, and almost completely from bookstores. Once that market exploded, mainstream publishers entered the field, transforming a medium mired in superheroes into a vibrant storytelling tool.

    (Joe, when did FC’s gn section rapidly expand?)

    Without manga, without Borders (and B&N), comics would still be an outsider medium.

  6. As the one who was buying graphic novels chain-wide for Borders from 1993 to 2001, I can tell you I certainly tried to build up the section as much as I could.

    While it’s true the world of GNs was smaller back then, it was growing steadily. DC rapidly developed a strong program (which was when I worked with Rich Johnson), Marvel was coming along, and then manga hit in a big way, first with Viz and then with TokyoPop. And I could mention other publishers and distributors we regularly tried to do business with as well.

    Part of the challenge back then was communicating the particular needs of the trade book world, which did not always match how things were done in the Direct Market (not a surprise, I’m guessing?). But that was a good problem to have, as sales kept trending up, and I’m still proud to have been able to play a part in giving those writers and artists a wider audience.

    All of which makes me very sad to see the company finally go under. I know a lot of people who devoted many years of their lives to making those stores as good as they could be.

  7. As many of the posters here seem very knowledgeable about the book industry, I was hoping to ask a question.

    Once the bankruptcy and liquidation take effect, then would the publishers (and consequently the authors) recoup any funds from the sale of their books at Borders?

    It sounds like the answer is no, but I would like to be sure if possible. I know several people who have pre-ordered books, or are planning on buying books, soon to be released. If those authors will not be compensated from sales of their books at the post-liquidation Borders, then I would like to alert those buyers so that they can take their business elsewhere if they are so inclined. My sincere thanks for any replies.

  8. Fundamentally, I don’t think the bookstore explosion COULD have happened had DC Comics not gone exclusive with Diamond.

    DC was able to FORCE Diamond to devote resources to building capacity for, and storage space for backlist items.

    THAT move gave others the possibility to use that capacity as well, one of which was Tokyopop, which shifted models from primarily periodicals to book format material.

    It is my opinion that Tpop wouldn’t have made that shift without the cultural change at Diamond towards backlist.

    Which is is absolutely true that Borders steered the Tpop dominance of the early explosive growth days of manga, I don’t think that Tpop wold have been producing what they did, how they did, without the DM’s capacity that was being built.

    It DID take “outsiders” to properly capitalize on that, however. No doubt there.


  9. I just bought the new Tim Zahn Star Wars novel on the Borders website and had it shipped to store. I hope I still get it.

    I’m going to miss my Borders.

  10. Very sad news. The graphic novel debate aside, Border was the only bookstore with any real depth to it, where you could find something nobody else carried and be excited enough to buy it. In its heyday, my Borders was a place that was packed every weekend with people interested in books, coffee, and (gasp) other live people. I know it’s the economy and discounting and e-nooktimberpads, but 10,700 people just lost their jobs — we are one step closer to The Matrix today.

  11. The dispersal of any funds from a liquidation depends on WHAT is owed to WHOM, and in what order. The court will decide. Most likely, the liquidators, Hilco/Gordon Brothers, will make a bid for all assets, and that amount will be divided among creditors. H/GB then will sell off everything they can, hoping to make a profit on what they purchased. Some stores might be purchased by Books-A-Million or other chains. The website and loyalty program have data to be mined. There’s also the airport and “Express” locations, which are probably more lucrative and profitable than a superstore.

    The money owed before the bankruptcy is different from money owed after the bankruptcy (but before liquidation). Terms are different, and it was these terms which quashed the Najafi offer.

    Most publishers/distributors have already written off loses from Borders pre-bankruptcy. Some have even instituted co-op programs for bookstores going out of business, where a publisher will subsidize clearances to reduce the possibility of a returns tsunami. (Basically, getting pennies on the dollar BEFORE liquidation.) Of course, if someone buys the book, even at a cheap price, they will probably purchase future books by the same author.

    Does the discounted sale of a title reduce the royalties paid to an author? Most likely. But remember, most authors get an advance, and the publisher hopes that the book sells enough copies to cover that advance against royalties, then continues to sell for years and years as a backlist title.

    Meanwhile, Follett and Nebraska Book Company, the #2 and #3 college bookstore chains, are experiencing financial difficulty.

  12. Before there was a POKEMON book format manga, the Pokemon craze had already invaded comic specialty stores. If ’99 was the year that the Poke-manga came out in the States, then it must have been ’98 when Pokemon #1 was the best-selling comic book of the year, in excess of 500,000 copies into the comic specialty market.

    Since Flying Colors opened in late ’88, we’ve carried book format comics. The first year or two that meant primarily comic-strip compilations and the relatively limited books that comic book publishers produced.

    I’d say our watershed moment was hosting one of the stops on the Morrison/McKean ARKHAM ASYLUM original graphic novel tour… when we sold in excess of 200 copies of a book format comic. That was 1989.

  13. Comic strip collections have always been a red-headed step-child of comics shops. Even though they hit the bestseller lists, and were widely known, most shops didn’t carry the mass-market editions from Andrews McMeel and others.

    1999 was when graphic novels became bookstored. Spawn (via Random House) and Fantagraphics entered the market, and Viz strongly promoted Pokemon books at Book Expo in Los Angeles. LPC distributed Marvel at that time, and eventually gained other publishers before bankruptcy in 2002.

    Books In Print: search “graphic novels” in subject keyword:
    1985: 113 (mostly comic strip collections)

    1996: 282 titles
    1997: 372
    1998: 413
    1999: 420 (Marvel, 16; DC, 111; Fantagraphics, 29)
    2000: 539
    2001: 634

    2010: 4130

    I’m not doubting the Pokemon number, but can you give a citation? Comichron is a bit vague, due to the uncertainty of reprints.

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