The Sky Is Falling… Finally…And Again…

Ever since the beginning of the ebook revolution, and then the collapse of the poorly run Borders, Chicken Little has been running around saying the sky is falling when it comes to Barnes&Noble.

It wasn’t.

For years B&N was fine, but clearly having issues and going the wrong way and not responding well at all to disruptive forces in publishing. (Huge understatement there.) But it was a sound business until one day this last year, it wasn’t. The bad management, too many losses, no direction, and too many CEOs finally caught up with it.

Now some reports have B&N living on a $750 million dollar loan that can’t be under good terms, and other reports now have it officially for sale. (That is difficult to parse out at best because of a few owner interests.)

If B&N defaults on that loan, the company will shut down faster than Borders did, and for the same basic mismanagement reasons.

And I seriously doubt anyone will buy them. Can’t see a reason for anyone to take over those massive mall leases and aging inventory at this point. Again, same exact issue Boarders had. And if the major publishers start cutting off B&N credit, nothing left but the clean-up.

At one point it was thought the folks who own Kobo could take it, but they are now with Walmart, a much better solution. It has been rumored that Amazon could grab it, but why would they bother with all that old stuff when they can build hundreds of new stores for less money?

I can be wrong. I follow the reports and stock reports, but I have no inside information other than watching history as a guide.

This can’t be blamed on ebooks, Amazon, or anything but horrid company management in a disruptive time. I’m not going to bother to get down into the many hundreds of details pointing to bad decision after bad decision. Many of those have been reported widely.

But what I want to note is that once again The Sky is Falling. This time from all the people saying that traditional publishing will die with Barnes&Noble.

Uhh, no.

Will a ton of authors who have stuck with traditional publishing against all logic get hurt? Yes. But no worse than they are already hurting themselves by selling all rights for the life of a copyright.

And through an agent who will steal from them at first chance.

Will entire book lines vanish? Yes. No great loss, actually, after the short-term pain to a few authors who needed to break lose anyway.

Folks, these traditional publishing companies are not really based anymore in their foundations on selling and distributing books to readers. That should be scary evident by now to even the slowest writers out there. Just as one example, the companies have no sales force, but instead depend on the writer doing the work, just as indie writers do. That’s only one bit of evidence.

Nope, these major international publishers rely on the purchase of IP for their bottom line accounting. They are, in essence, copyright squatting.

This has been going on in art, music, and Hollywood for a very long time, folks. Just finally, with the new IP valuation methods for fiction copyright, copyright squatting is coming into play in publishing. (Copyright can be depreciated for tax purposes, folks. Forever. Just saying. Buy a book for $5,000 advance, appraise the future value for 70 years after the author’s death at a half million, put that value on the corporation books and then depreciate it. It is slightly more complicated than that, but not much.)

And the big corporations still have lots of outlets for their scam publishing operations to continue to pretend to sell books to suck in the new IP. Amazon and other online stores are now the largest outlets for traditional books, both electronic and paper. And indie bookstores are growing in number faster than weeds.

The bottom line… B&N going down or getting sold will be a blip in a disruptive time in publishing. Traditional publishers will keep having the ability to take copyright from writers, pretend to publish it, and then use that IP to keep themselves afloat just fine.

And indie writers and publishers will just keep on going to the bank and writing the books they want to  write and actually caring about the readers, something traditional publishing and B&N long ago forgot how to do.

B&N has an uncertain fate at the moment, but just remember, the sky isn’t falling in publishing no matter what happens to that chain of stores. Publishing, thanks in large measure to the stability now of the indie publishers, will just keep on giving readers the stories they are looking for.

I just wish more traditionally published writers would see how the world has changed this century and save their books from a life of living on a corporate accounting balance sheet and not in a reader’s hands.