The big news this week in the book world is the collapse of Borders, which just filed for bankruptcy protection, which means publishers -- and therefore, authors -- will take a hit for hundreds of millions of dollars in books the chain sold, but never paid for. The Wall Street Journal reports my own publisher, Penguin Group USA, had the most exposure at $41.1 million. That's a lot of copies of Lobster Coast.
Borders has also issued a list of stores to be closed. Surprisingly, all four Borders in Maine -- South Portland, Auburn, Brunswick, and Bangor -- will apparently survive for now. (I've heard the South Portland store is actually one of the chain's most profitable in the entire country.) The carnage in New England is extensive, however, with locations in Nashua (N.H.), Holoyoke, Wareham, Boylston Street, Hyannis, and -- sniff -- Peabody (MA); Danbury, Milford, Simsbury, Southbury, Manchester, and Wilton (CT) closing up shop. I've been to nearly all of these stores during one book tour or another, and there will definitely be some big retailing voids as a result. (Borders hopes to survive as a smaller chain.)
Much of the carnage in the bookselling world is apparently due to online retailers, but I still wonder if the disappearance of so many big box stores will give the surviving independent booksellers a fighting chance. In the past couple of years, Maine lost some of its best: Port in a Storm (Somesville), Bookland (Brunswick and Rockland), and Books etc.'s Portland location. I, for one, hope the rest survive, as there are getting to be fewer and fewer venues for readers, authors, and books to encounter one another, face to face.