Wednesday, July 27, 2011

#294. The Closing of Borders


The Closing of Borders, or Retroactive Rules for Staying Open

So, apart from plain lousy business decisions and a poor economy, here's a few lessons that may be learned from Borders, which I'm still working for, going bankrupt and into liquidation:

1. If you have better customer service, make sure that message is broadcast loud and clear. Borders went out of its way to help customers. It had terminals available for customer use all over the place, associates whose first mission was to help those customers, and a rewards program that really rewarded, coupons and discounts that were always greater than 10%. This is the exact opposite of Barnes & Noble. Yet Borders had a smaller market awareness, and rarely advertised, at least effectively.

2. When there's a huge craze that brings droves of customers into your store, make them repeat customers. Harry Potter, the Millennium Trilogy, The Da Vinci Code, the Twilight Saga...These are the big ones, and yet, the only response every time was to have these books...available. These were rabid fans of unusual stories. You don't rely on publishers finding similar authors who then line homogeneous bookshelves, you build a relationship and awareness of the many other books awaiting those readers. You help them believe that there's plenty more to read. Yes, there are significant crazes, and outside of those many people will stay away from bookstores (or book outlets), but if you can retain a significant fraction of the millions of readers who routinely make themselves obvious, you have a far better industry on your hands. More people watch movies, TV, even YouTube videos than read books. Isn't that shame enough?

3. Make your product available for the audiences who don't typically think of you. As kids in grade school, book fairs are a regular occurrence. Yet exactly at the age when those same readers are considering what to do with the rest of their lives, books seem to almost completely disappear behind school assignments and expanded social obligations. Bookstores can help with this kind of problem by making their products available to these readers, the ones who might still like to read, but not in the way, or with the books, their teachers are pushing on them. Where now you have those same readers succumbing to the latest juvenile "humor" selection (I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Go the Fuck to Sleep, which is for parents-who-shouldn't-be-parents, and therefore possibly exactly the same audience I'm talking about), you could be introducing them to the latest and finest literary treasure, which is quickly vanishing from American culture. Women's reading groups should not be the largest proponent of reading. They will glom onto dreck like The Help (A.K.A. Gone with the Wind 2.0).

4. For the love of god, fill your stores with employees who actually read for their own pleasure. You might have more customers who are willing to do the same.

5. Probably wouldn't hurt, either, for those same employees to be interested in their jobs. Just sayin'.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

#293. Reading List: Looking Backward


Next up on my Reading List:

Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, an overlooked 19th century gem that covers, as the rest of the title suggests, from 2000 to 1887. Bellamy was a social activist whose particular utopia was nationalist/socialist, who otherwise believed the Gilded Age was a far cry from perfection, and so he went about imagining what a better future would look like. The central figure out the book pulls a Futurama and winds up in Boston of the year 2000. Bellamy's ideals ensue.

The link and cover shot for this book come from Amazon for the first time in a while, since as you might have heard, Borders is going out of business, and so there's very point in attempting any further links to its website, since god knows how much longer it'll be running. As a current employee in one of its Colorado Springs locations, I'm pretty sad to see the company go, but all things must end, good or bad.

I would like to add a few more words about Crime and Punishment, which I might actually think really is better than Brothers Karamazov, which after all became one of my favorite books when I read it five years ago. Raskolnikov offers a distinctly modern perspective in 19th century Russia about the human condition, the concerns and possibilities that trouble and enoble life. He may consider himself a Napoleon, but we would all be better off if we held such lofty ideals, if we all strove to be our most perfect selves. Raskolnikov's biggest flaw is his inability to believe in himself, which is reflected in Dostoyevki's deliberate method of withholding his main character's motives until deep into the novel. What is the reader to think of the character that the character himself doesn't? We learn about him by accident, just as his experiences throughout the story are a series of accidents. There's a lot of Lost in this book. No wonder Ben liked this author so much.

Anyway, I'm not a student, either, so I don't need to write too much analysis, whether arbitrary, cursory, or pointed.

Friday, July 15, 2011

#292. Hedging on Examiner


Still reading Crime and Punishment. Believe it or not, but I'm thinking of writing some actual analysis or commentary, which is something I rarely do here. Could be interesting.

I may or may not quit writing movie reviews for Examiner. They do a good job of obscuring the fact that you probably aren't going to actually earn much of anything, unless you're doing stories that aren't exactly what they advertize for in their wanted ads. Still, had a lot of fun writing some extended reviews, though I seemed to have more interest in the Film Fan blog when I wrote extremely condensed takes of movies. Do people really like it better when they have to read less about something? Possibly...


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