Borders Liquidation May Further Kindle Amazon’s Success

As of this morning, Monday the 18th of July, it seems pretty much inevitable that Borders will no longer be a presence in the American retail space soon.  Their failure to compete with Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, especially with regard to the Kindle and Nook eReaders, led the company to bankruptcy earlier this year.  At this time, Borders Group employs over 11,000 people in over 400 stores nationwide.

At this point, bidding for the company has passed and there seems to be little hope for recovery for America’s second largest book retailer.  While earlier this month a buyer had seemingly been found for the troubled company, creditors have rejected the bid based on the possibility that the new owner would be able to liquidate the company after purchase.  Unable to find common ground on that topic, and having no other serious bids, liquidation of what is left of Borders seems to be a sure thing.

Overall, this would seem to be a story about a failure to adapt to a changing marketplace.  Even before the eBook revolution, digital distribution had become a major, and possibly the major, means of music acquisition for many consumers.  Hundreds of Borders Superstores around the country still kept, and still keep, whole floors of CDs collecting dust.

When it came time to jump into eReading, Borders was late to the game and didn’t really manage to do anything to set themselves apart.  Their own eBook store, built in 2008 after breaking away from an affiliation with Amazon, was weak to begin with and eventually ended up being replaced outright by Canadian partner Kobo.  While they did make a splash as the first company to being a sub-$150 eReader to America by way of the previously mentioned Kobo partnership, no real effort was made to produce or even settle on a single product.

The decline of the company was not abrupt.  The last time Borders turned a profit was back in 2006.  Still, many will mourn the death of yet another major brick & mortar book retailer as the convenience and lack of overhead that sites like Amazon.com provide make the local bookstore less profitable and less common.  Should things go the way they look to be over the next several days, Barnes & Noble may well be the last major bookseller with a nationwide physical presence.

All of this may be good news for Amazon as they become that much more essential for the avid reader.  Without a local Borders store, many consumers will be forced to turn to the internet to make their book purchases.  It will even likely have some small impact on the sales of Kindle eReaders as the ease of acquisition for less prominent eReading devices, previously sold to varying degrees in participating Borders stores, drops off.  Some even wonder whether this might not hasten the decline of the printed book, since it makes the impulsive browsing experience that much less tactile.  If one is forced to buy something that can’t be held and inspected ahead of time, it might be better to go for the option with instant delivery and no risk of damage in transit, right?

Top 10 Editor’s Picks of 2011 So Far

There are a number of particularly poignant books on the Top 10 Editor’s Picks of 2011 so far.  I thought I’d provide a quick synopsis of them.  They are all available for the Kindle.

Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II

Just reading the story description and reviews of this book gives me the shivers.  Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff is the story of the three remaining survivors of a plane crash that killed 21 members of the United States military.  The trio land in the jungles of New Guinea towards the end of World War II and believe it or not, this is a true story.  The survivors include a member of the Woman’s Army Corps, a lieutenant, and sergeant. In addition to facing serious injuries and threats from the jungle, they have to constantly be on the alert for cannibalism.  It is quite a powerful story of survival and heroism.

The Tiger’s Wife: A Novel

Obreht weaves three stories in one in her debut novel.  The novel is set in an unidentified country, but is rumored to be somewhere around her native Croatia.  The Tiger’s Wife’s main character is Natalia, a doctor, who sets out to unveil secrets from the past.  In 1941 during the German bombardment, a tiger escaped from the zoo and befriended a deaf woman.  Hence, the title The Tiger’s Wife.  This story is intertwined with Natalia’s care for orphans and a family in search of bones from a long dead relative.  Then there’s the deathless man…

Quite an impressive novel for such a new and young author!

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

Continuing the World War II theme, the Garden of Beasts comes from the point of view of the first American ambassador to Berlin during Hitler’s regime. Ambassador Dodd recognizes the dangers that Hitler will bring in his quest for absolute power.  You’ll also read about Dodd’s daughter Martha, who seeks out the glamorous life with the elite in Berlin and ends up in close relations with the head of the Gestapo.  Quite fascinating and scary to hear such a close account of the rise of Hitler.

Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef-owner of the successful restaurant in New York City, Prune, writes a compelling memoir of her childhood and the twists and turns that finally led to her success.  In the beginning, she had a great childhood living on a farm.  That all fell apart when her parents divorced.  Hamilton lost any direction in life and education, traveled around Europe, worked menial jobs.  Through all of this, she gained an appreciation for food and the comfort of being fed.  Her experiences add quite a bit of depth to the memoir.

The Tragedy of Arthur: A Novel

Arthur Phillips wrote an interesting, yet questionable tale of living with a con artist father and twin sister who has a deep love for Shakespeare.  Part of the story is written like a memoir while the other part deals with the supposed unpublished play “The Tragedy of Arthur” that Arthur and his sister set out to get published and set on stage.  Personally, I’m not a big fan of Shakespeare, but this book is still a good read regardless, especially with the humor mixed in.

Bossypants

Gotta love Tina Fey.  Check out the post I wrote on her memoir, Bossypants.

22 Brittania Road: A Novel

Another compelling World War II novel.  A Polish family of three tries to reestablish themselves in England at the end of the war.  Silvana and her son Aurek spent years in the Polish woods.  Aurek does not know how to do basic tasks like sleep in a bed, at eight years old.  So, forgetting the past proves quite a challenge.  The reader finds out what measures this family has to take to become whole again.

Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel

This novel reminds me of the movie, 50 First Dates.  The main character, Christine, was in an accident that leaves her with strange memory loss.  Every day she wakes up and has to be reminded basic details of her life by her husband Ben.  After she reads her journal and sees that she wrote “don’t trust Ben”, the novel turns into a thrilling account of trust. Who can you trust, particularly when you don’t have the memory to recall what has happened in the past.  Scary thought.

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

Joshua Foer goes through a year of memory training and acquires amazing memory skills that enable him to enter the US Memory Championship.  The key is to find your brain’s niche and ability so that it can naturally remember more.  I find this fascinating because I have a really good long term memory, but my short term memory is horrible.  So, in order to retain anything, I have to commit it to my long term memory.

Please Look After Mom

Bestselling Korean author Kyung-sook Shin writes a memorable story of a missing mother and her family.  It is told from the point of view of two of the children, the husband, and finally the mother herself.  There is much regret over neglecting to take better care of the mother.  The reader also gets a good glimpse of Korea as well.  It is a tale of how one family overcomes great barriers to become unified again.

So, this is a great selection of memoirs and novels on World War Il, tragedy, humor and the importance of family.  Quite a diverse collection of books from a unique set of authors.  Enjoy!