Dear Mr. Josefowicz:
I was appalled to read about your "category management" plan giving
publishers undue influence in what books you shelve. This seems to me like
an appalling conflict of interest, a shocking abdication of your responsibility
to choose the best books for your customers, and a frightening display of
contempt for your customers. It would require enormous naïvete to imagine
that this will not lead to less diversity, less experimentation, and more
bland, commercial crap on the shelves.
In exchange for a little bit of extra cash flow, you are giving up the
to exercise your core competency of delivering the best books to your customers,
no matter who published them. "Category management" schemes in other industries
have led to a situation where the stores merely rubber stamp the big producers'
cartelization of the market.
It's one thing when Wal-mart does this. It's still bad for the customer
- cartels are always bad for the consumer - but it's not as bad when you're
talking about a commodity, like toothpaste. I don't particularly care if
my toothpaste is interesting and innovative.
But I can't imagine how you think it's in Borders long-term business
to collaborate in the commodification, stagnation, and calcification of
the book industry. Already the book industry is crippled by being dominated
by a few, massively influential distribution networks and a few big publishers
owned by media conglomerates run by people who don't really understand or
love literature. The inevitable result is the kind of stagnant pablum that
the big Hollywood studios produced in the 50's. This may be popular for
a while, but people get bored fast. And if those who really prefer pablum
will always prefer to watch TV. Shutting out the small press -- which is,
and don't kid yourself that anyone doesn't know it, what this decision does
-- only makes this cancer worse.
I will not be shopping at Borders any time soon, I will be communicating
about this issue to groups of writers, readers, and literature fans with
whom I am associated, and I imagine the discussion boards on stock shorting
on Yahoo and the Motley Fool will also find this interesting.