Just before the weekend, WSMV reported that Borders sent an email to their La Vergne employees saying the distribution center would remain open for the foreseeable future.
This is a bright spot in what has otherwise been a never-ending cascade of dismal Borders' news for Tennessee.
What does it mean, though? Who the heck knows? The "foreseeable future" could be next week, for all the turmoil the publishing industry is in.
But, hey, for now, those people in LaVergne still have jobs. And that's something worth celebrating.
Just as a side-note, here's where I see things going. I think we will continue to see Borders and Barnes & Nobles go through enormous upheaval. I'm not sure if chain bookstores can survive, but, if they do, they will have a different business model than they do now.
I think we'll see a rise in independent bookstores, especially ones with well-curated stacks. You'll be able to go in and say, "I want a good horror novel," and they'll say, "Oh, have you seen the new Joe Hill? I loved it." Buying books from people who know what's in those books is always a pleasure for book lovers. This doesn't go away just because of ebooks.
Speaking of ebooks, this will be key for the independent booksellers — they're going to have to work out with the "publishers" a way to get a modest cut of any ebook sales that come through independent booksellers' websites. And then "publishers" should rejoice that there will be trusted book readers (something that Amazon can never really offer) who say, "Oh, hey, you don't know Joe Hill? Look, you can get this book electronically for less than the regular book, so you can try him out and see if you like him. Just go to our website and hit 'buy'."
And I put "publishers" in quotes because I think that will be the biggest change. I've been through the self-publishing process (and the results are a fun read) and I can tell you that a world in which everyone just self-publishes is not coming. Writers who are good business people will flourish being their own publishers.
Everyone else is still going to want some apparatus that does the work they can't do or can't do well. And I think we're going to see a lot of interesting experiments in what that apparatus might look like. Will an agent just handle all that? Will authors band together and just hire all that work done? Will it become easier and less cumbersome to do it yourself? Will publishers find that they're in a similar position to those in the music industry — where it doesn't necessarily make sense for an artist/writer to hook on to one early in her career (and it may make economic sense for them to go it alone later in their career), but that they're a necessary tool for one's mid-career?
It's a strange time we live in. More people are more literate than they've ever been in the history of people. And the book industry is imploding.
I have complete confidence something interesting will rise up out of the rubble. But it's still an uneasy moment.