It is as dispiriting as it is symptomatic that this story — which was BIG NEWS yesterday — has already fallen from the digital front pages as we move on to the pie-ing of Rupert Murdoch and the transparent BS of today’s “testimony” before Parliament of the aforementioned and his henchpersons. (Or, in deference to our British cousins, the BBS.)
And Murdoch is caught in that symptomatology. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t recapitulate. The digital revolution is sweeping through skilled professions that had formerly been considered sacrosanct: legal offices, mechanical draftsmen, and, from Gutenberg, print and publishing. The former gatekeepers of news, information, publication and distribution are suddenly adrift in the sea of change — as is Rupert Murdoch the newspaperman, raised by a newspaperman in an increasingly newspaperless age. The Wall Street Journal — a Rupert Murdoch newspaper — reported:
The chain’s demise could speed the decline in sales of hardcover and paperback books as consumers increasingly turn to downloading electronic books or having physical books mailed to their doorsteps.
“When you lose literally miles of bookshelves, it’s going to have an impact,” said David Young, chief executive of Lagardère SCA’s Hachette Book Group, which Borders owed $36.9 million at the time of its bankruptcy filing. “I hope other retailers will now step up and make offers for what they consider to be the prime sites,” Mr. Young said. “It’s a tragedy Borders didn’t make it through.”
JULY 19, 2011
Borders Forced to Liquidate, Close All Stores
And thus spake Zarathustra. Generations of the creaky publishing industry have slaved in Dickensian conditions, stained with ink, with a few authors and publishers growing wealthy and armies of sometimes, alltimes, wannabes and has-beens have toiled with foolscap and ink delivery systems from quill to Selectric III self-correcting (the Cadillac™ of my youth) to hand-set type and then mechanical and computer typesetting. And now that entire supply chain is collapsing. That’s giant news. That’s another sepulchral death-knell for the Old Guard of Publishing, going back to Gutenberg, and further, into the scriptoriums of the Middle Ages.
The handwriting has been on the wall for a long time now, but when an elephant that large has occupied the room for so long, no one sees it anymore. Then, one day, suddenly: they adjust their glasses-chains, tap their pipes, tug on their goatees and exclaim, interrogatively, “Where did this dead elephant come from?“
That chain is breaking, as witnessed by the complete collapse of Borders, the second-largest bookstore chain in the USA, with 399 stores and 10,700 employees. (That’s not going to goose the new jobs figures next month, much.)
And, as that army of ten thousand wannabe and kinda-is writers flood onto the streets (for I have never yet met a bookstore clerk who either wasn’t a ‘writer’ or else planned to be), I can only offer this video advice: