Photo courtesy of Nicola's Books

Independent booksellers are continuously looking for ways to compete with online retail giants like Amazon.

A recent New York Times article highlights how some independent bookstores are taking advantage of something online retails can't provide: in-person author events. Here's an excerpt:

user mconnors / morgueFile

On today's podcast, we talk with Michigan author Steve Amick about writing, humor, and the character of writers from the state. It's part of Michigan Radio's occasional literary series, Michigan on the Page.   Amick is the author of The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, which takes place in a fictional town on the west side of the state.

Steve Amick

Steve Amick knows Michigan.

His first novel, The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, takes place in Weneshkeen, a fictional boat town on the western coast of Michigan. The novel is filled with scenes familiar to many Michiganders—the conflict between townies and summer people, between farmers and daytripping Fudgies.

Ann Patchett, Petoskey bookstore enthusiast and award-winning author, has a new book.

Patchett is the author of five previous novels, including Bel Canto, which won the Pen/Faulkner and the Orange Prize.

The plot of her new book, State of Wonder, features a pharmaceutical researcher sucked into an international adventure with a potentially huge-profit-making drug at its heart.

Kevin Rawlings / Creative Commons

75 workers will be laid off from Christian book publisher Zondervan’s distribution warehouse in July of 2012. Zondervan currently employs 325 people.

Scott Macdonald is president and CEO of the Grand Rapids-based company that publishes Bibles, children’s books, and Christian authors.

“We’re a family. We have a long history and heritage (in Grand Rapids). This is a significant impact on our family but it’s one that’s driven by a changing business climate and it’s the right decision for us at this time because of that.”

Lorna Is / Flickr

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Borders Group Inc. will move its headquarters from Ann Arbor to the Detroit metro area. The company is currently operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. From the Journal:

Borders Group Inc. plans to tell publishers and landlords Wednesday it has achieved major cost savings, including more than $30 million in rent reductions, and that it will move out of its Ann Arbor, Mich., headquarters for cheaper office space in the greater Detroit metro area.

Presenting its business plan to an unsecured creditors committee, predominantly made up of publishers and landlords, Borders also plans to say it has now closed about 50 superstores as part of efforts to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to people familiar with the matter. Altogether, Borders will close 226 by the end of next month, although a handful of additional stores could be closed, depending on negotiations with landlords, the people said.

News organizations around the state were quick to pick up the report:

Andrew / Flickr

Welcome to part one of our web exclusive series, “Michigan on the Page.”

Over the following months, we will be talking with writers from all over Michigan about what books they think best represent the state.

Writers, like many of the state’s residents, have all kinds of opinions on what kinds of writing really speak to Michigan and its citizens.

Are there highlights? Tons. Way too many to list. But here’s a short selection of recent and all-time favorites:

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When you think about improvisation you might think of comedy or jazz. The idea of cartooning or drawing comics is probably not what comes to mind. But a little comic book shop in Dearborn is giving artists a space to try out new ideas, together, on paper.

Green Brain Comics hosts a monthly  comic jam.  It’s similar to the writing exercise known as an exquisite corpse. In this case, an artist draws one panel, then passes it to someone who draws another panel, and so forth.  The end result is an entire comic strip, created by eight artists.

Ruthanne Reid / Flickr

This could be a pivotal week for the future of Borders Books with some sources saying the company could seek bankruptcy protection.    

The Ann Arbor-based bookseller delayed payments to publishers and others the past two months.   The company has been trying to negotiate with its vendors and come up with a plan to move forward.    Borders has a half billion dollar financing deal in place, if it can come to terms with its vendors. 

Jeff Manning is a managing director with BDO Capitol Advisors.   Manning’s company closely follows the retail market. 

"The challenge,  if you look at the statistics,  majority of companies that enter bankruptcy do not emerge.  If you look at recent statistics with retailers, an awful lot of retailers have gone straight into liquidation." 

Manning expects Borders’ vendors will decide it’s more in their interest to keep Borders viable. He says, if Borders does file for bankruptcy, the company will probably exit bankruptcy before Christmas.   But Manning says Borders execs must be careful, since the bookseller is in a precarious position:

"One foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel," says Manning.


The Rise and Fall (and Re-Rise?) of Borders Group.

Courtesy Creative Commons

Borders Books has been struggling to survive. 

Yesterday, the Ann Arbor bookseller announced it had lined up $550 million dollars in financing to stay afloat.

The deal is contingent on Borders reaching a deal with book publishers. It's been reported that the company set a February 1st deadline for the publishers to agree to take up to a third of the booksellers debt. A Borders spokeswoman would only say the company has not stated a specific date. 

The deal with GE Capital announced Thursday could help. Or it may not. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Borders is still looking for money to finance the company through a possible bankruptcy filing.

Flickr - Ruthanne Reid

The headlines for the Michigan-based Borders Group Inc. have not been good lately:

And my personal favorite speculative headline:

It seems everyone has been on a death watch for the bookseller.

Today, Julie Bosman writes in the New York Times Borders may be close to a financing deal that might help the company reorganize. From the article:

Borders executives told publishers that they were close to securing refinancing from GE Capital and other lenders, these people said, speaking only on condition of anonymity, and that the company intended to reduce costs, improve liquidity and expand marketing efforts, as well as sell some assets.

Earlier this month, we  posted on a Reuters report that said Borders was working with publishers to work out a deal. Borders is in debt to the publishers for past shipments and the company reportedly wants to restructure that debt as a loan.

Meanwhile, the company is cutting costs. The Detroit News reported yesterday that Borders is closing a big distribution center in Tennessee:

Borders will consolidate the processing and delivery of books, movies, music and other products to two distribution centers in Carlisle, Pa., and Mira Loma, Calif. It is part of a long-term effort to cut costs and make the distribution of products to bookstores more efficient, Borders Group said in a statement.

So will borders survive? What would your future headline say?

Photo courtesy of Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor

Need help finding the perfect holiday gift for the bibliophile in your life?

The folks at the Library of Michigan have come up with their annual "Michigan Notable Books" list: 20 books about Michigan or by Michigan authors.

We interview Randy Riley on this week's Artpod. Riley is in charge of special collections at the Library of Michigan, and he says "there’s something for everybody on this list."

Ildar Sagdejev / creative commons

Update: 2:12pm:

Since we posted this story we found this analysis piece by Sarah Weinman of Daily Finance News. She also calls the notion that Borders Books could buy Barnes & Noble a story that has "entertainment value" not much more. Weinman says of Borders Books:

"If a merger was its plan for saving itself, expect B&N's rejection of the deal to accelerate its downward spiral -- an end that, sadly for the publishing industry, is likely to come sooner rather than later."