I thought your Borders post started strong, but faded.
Not your fault. You nailed the problem, but then imply that the solution was obvious and doable, and it’s not about selling ‘ideas.’ The truth is that it’s almost impossible to make a wrenching change in a successful business model, until it’s too late – for the reason that you don’t know how. Xerox still hasn’t done it, nor has Barnes & Noble. IBM did it twice, which is impressive and rare.
About twenty years ago B&N and Borders revolutionzed book selling by killing off the mom and pops, opening large well-lit stores, with plenty of room for, and encouragement for, browsing and lingering. I did a book tour in 1993 in California, and was stunned at these stores. The events were invariably well-planned. I could find my books easily, they kept print runs in stock far longer than the mom and pops because they had the space, etc etc. The NY literati mocked them for mass marketing and made fun of them in movies like 'You’ve got Mail’, but they were a boon for the publishing industry.
Then Amazon started to sell books without bookstores, and made a smash hit out of it, and was a leader with the Kindle. And then it was the erstwhile rebels who were scrambling to rediscover their raison d’etre, and not finding much.
Because Amazon was at heart a Seattle technology company, not a book store, the path to paperless ’books’ was a lot easier. When the business model changes to one that favors the upstart, the proper course for the old-model company is usually not to emulate the startup, but to give the money back to its stockholders and just quietly die.
Charlie: Thanks for this wise commentary.