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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

quick newsy notes

Even though Barnes & Noble likes to brag about how wonderfully they're doing, the cost-cutting bug hasn't skipped over. Here Publishers Weekly discusses the impact on small presses of B&N's recent layoff of some four dozen staffers, including several long-time buyers and merchandisers which include the company's director of small press and vendor relationships. Holding to the truism that companies don't like to mayke announcements of bad news, there is no B&N release on the layoffs, their latest is to wax enthusiastic about periodical sales for the Nook.

The news from Borders is that publishers are supposed to indicate next week if they will trade their accounts receivable for a promissory note. And there were more layoffs at HQ. They raised some cash by selling their Day by Day calendar kiosk business to Calendar Club. Can't be much, though, because the kiosks are a seasonal business, and the business can't be much more than selling the rolodex of contacts to talk to about leasing space next year. Somebody I know who works at a Borders says they're on skeleton staff and still supposed to take out 80 more hours from the store payroll, and there's a big push to sell the Borders Rewards membership upgrades. I wish this process wasn't dragging on so long, annoying customers, employees, publishers, pretty much all of the so-called "stakeholders" as Whole Foods likes to call them. I suspect there are some ego issues involved. The very rich Bennett Lebow doesn't want to admit he made a mistake putting money into Borders last spring. Nor does the very rich and often full of dumb ideas William Ackman of Pershing Square Capital. They have too much at stake in a Chapter 11 filing, they're not afraid to have collateral damage in trying to avoid the filing. They're rich enough they can lean on a bank to refinance Borders, but the bank has to do something to make it seem like there's a good reason to put cash into the business hence the hard sell on the fig leaf of having the publishers share in the sacrifice. So it drags on.

The Queens Public Library is no longer buying books. They decided it was more important to keep staff and hours at the branches then to buy books to put into said branches, so until their funding renews maybe in July they've put a stake in the book buying budget. Ain't that cheery!


Maria said...

Ouch on the library. My local library has run out of funds for books before the new fiscal year before--but it's usually a two month period while the local council goes back and forth over how much money the library might get in the next year.

It sounds like it's going to be a long way for new books in that library.

Anonymous said...

Borders kiosk sale includes the actual Kiosk units which get sent to the over 450 malls that have a Day by Day Seasonal business each year. In the off season they are stored in moving company warehouses around the country.

The real antiques are the cash registers which are DOS based computers running off nothing other than a floppy disk which is used to store each day's sales data. The disk is transported to the store nightly, inserted into another DOS based PC and the data is transmitted to Borders HQ via an ancient 300 baud modem.

In 2010 Kiosks were expected to sell Borders Gift cards. The whole program flopped. Hours for kiosks are in addition to hours provided for normal bookstore operations. Kiosk hours were NOT pulled from store allocation and Kiosks did NOT sell Rewards Cards or upgrades. They only sold gift cards, and very few of them.