Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fall of Borders—Rise of New Adult?

Since the announcement of Borders' liquidation last week, the world has been abuzz with speculation. (Or sulking, in my case.)


I dutifully marched into my local Waldenbooks last Thursday, ready to say the first of my goodbyes, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. The place was still business as usual, the distinct scent of unturned pages clouding the air. All of the workers, though helpful, gave smiles that didn't quite reach their eyes. How was I supposed to induldge in my own pity party, when I knew they would be the ones suffering the most at the end of the day?

As if sensing my turmoil, the woman behind the counter struck up a conversation. "You know," she said. "Waldenbooks has actually been around a lot longer than Borders. It's a shame to see this place go." 

(If you're curious about their intertwined history, check it out here.)   

A shame? That was an understatement. Still, I couldn't help but admire her attitude. She'd only been at that particular location for a few months—since her last store shut down—but she'd been with Waldenbooks since 1993. The changing business environment didn't diminish her passion and loyalty. Even as the ship was going down, she still had the pride to sing its praises. Kudos to her.

(Photo courtesy of my sister)
I can't tell you how many times I've had someone wait on that same, exact benchonly for me to emerge an hour later, arms laden with debt bags. *sigh*

So, what does Borders' bow out mean for the rest of us? For me, the closest bookstore is now an hour's drive in either direction. Unless I want to empty my gas tank, I'm going to have to rely on the internet a lot more. That's got me thinking.

Now that places like Amazon have such a firm hold on the industry, what can we expect in the coming months and years? Will genre terms like New Adult—fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—finally come to fruition? (You remember the whole New Adult movement, don’t you? St. Martin’s tried to make it a thing back in 2009, but the industry support wasn't there. Most reasoned that New Adult wouldn't have a clear place on bookstore shelves. The books—not unlike their MC counterparts—didn't belong with YA, but they weren't quite at the adult level.)

Physical stores simply don't have enough room to allow every age range a separate section. Is there a big enough market out there to justify New Adult as a genre term?

I think so.

I've seen plenty of forum threads and blog posts over the years, pleading for "traditional college-age" fiction. (Even fun debates on the matter.) No matter what the naysayers spout, I contend that it is a big transition in life. The sudden rush of freedom affects people. Old relationships are tested, priorities shift, and new goals come into focus. Every day is filled with fresh interaction and new experiences. No one is going to convince me that New Adult can't be "coming of age" fiction, sorry.  
(I still love you guys.)

For now, as far as queries are concerned, I'm fine with calling it Adult fiction. If the MC is out of high school, it's a bit of a stretch to call it YA. So, to me, Adult seems like a safe bet.

However, now that we're seeing more and more brick-and-mortar stores overshadowed by the e-revolution, is it time for a change? Now that there's ample categorical room online, can New Adult (or whatever they end up calling it) finally step into the spotlight? I say yes. What do you guys think?

If you need me, I'll be off in search of secondhand bookstores. ♥

P.S. If you have questions about Borders' bankruptcy proceedings, you might want to look here

[Update] Whoa! Looks like Jessica Faust touched on New Adult today too. It must be something in the air. ;)


Bethany Elizabeth said...

The thought that's getting me through this is that people will always need books, and even if they come in a different medium, the story will still sell. :)

Carrie Butler said...

Too true, Bethany! That's a great way to look at things. Oh, and thanks for stopping by! :)

linda said...

The closest bookstore is an HOUR away now? Wow. That's crazy. Sorry to hear it!

JeffO said...

We took advantage of the impending closure of our 'local' (30-minute drive -- ah, rural life!) Borders this weekend to pick up a bucket-load of books. As the Death Spiral goes on we'll go back. There's a sort of uncomfortable joy in this -- it's nice to get books on sale, but it's sad to see people who will soon be unemployed.

As to the question of 'New Adult' -- I'm sure there's 'room' for it, I'm just not sure it's a good idea. I feel that the continued 'compartmentalization' may actually make it more difficult for people to find good books.

April said...

First of all, it is terribly sad to see all these book stores closing. I admit to ordering quite a bit online, but I also love going to a book store and simply browsing. Running my fingertips along the spines, feeling the weight of the book in my hands, the crackle of the spine as I open to the first page...I love it. I don't want it to go.

Second of all, I think there should definitely be a New Adult. I mean, gosh, I grew SO MUCH between high school and mid-twenties. The mid-twenties is a whole different experience than the 30's. It's hard to lump everything together once the MC gradatuates high school. I had a hard time defining one of my books because the MC is 19...but I ended up calling it Women's Fiction.

Laila Knight said...

I'm going to miss Borders. Barnes and Nobles is terribly far for me. I think New Adult is a fine genre. YA feels too young for me. I'd hate to be stuck in high school forever. In New Adult I expect a certain level of maturity minus the boredom equated with giving up what makes you want to play. Does that make sense? :)

Carrie Butler said...

@Linda - Yeah, there's a B&N an hour to the east and a Books-A-Million an hour to the west. It's a bummer. :( Thanks for leaving a comment, though! :)

@JeffO - I can definitely understand that sentiment. I'm glad you were able to score some great deals. That's one plus we can take away from this situation. :) Thanks!

@April - I love the way you described that. I feel the same way. *Sigh* As for New Adult, I'm glad you agree! Women's Fiction, hm? Not a bad idea. Thanks for stopping by! :)

@Laila - Absolutely! *Grin* Thank you! :)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

When my local one closed down I picked up a whole lot of books at 70% off... and then a different bookstore opened up in its place. This surprised and delighted me.

Carrie Butler said...

That's awesome, Lynda! I mean, I hate to see a store close down, but it seems like you had exceptional luck. :)

JeffO said...

In hindsight (and courtesy of a post I found elsewhere, linked below) I am disappointed to find that we really didn't score any deals. Border's apparently jacked up most of their prices before discounting, so some books were selling for less a few weeks ago than they are now at 10% off.


Don't I feel like an idiot?

Carrie Butler said...

Wow! That's terrible, Jeff. I wonder what kind of last-ditch purpose that hike could possibly serve now. Yikes! Thanks for sharing the link.

Jeff King said...

I say yes... but I hope there will always be book store, because I won't read my books of a screen.

Great post

Carrie Butler said...

@JeffK - Yeah, nothing can replace the feel of a (tangible) book. Thank you! :)

@Bryce - Thanks! You know, I think you might have something there. When I consider it that way, the disappointment increases tenfold. Ugh. :(

Anonymous said...

The Borders liquidation has nothing to do with e-books, and everything to do with corporate, no matter how much they'd like to shift the blame. They got away from their core product and core clientele, then rather than scale back, they tried to make things better by going bigger and stretching their resources further into endeavors that any tenth grader could have told them would fail. Had Borders run its whole company the way Waldenbooks ran its part of the chain, the company would still be solvent.

Carrie Butler said...

@Anonymous - It's such a shame, isn't it? I've heard quite a few people remarks on the way Waldenbooks has done business in comparison with Borders. Regardless of how they reached their breaking point, I wish it could have been avoided. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it. :)

Patrick said...

WHAT?! I haven't been the mall in months. Walden books went out of business?! I remember talking about this but it didn't click until just now. I have bought so many things from that store.


I live under a rock...

Carrie Butler said...

Patrick, there's still time. It's not completely gone yet. Go now! Wait. Take me. We must go soon! :)