The book market is definitely having its ups and downs. Some companies like Amazon, who are claiming to have had a 40% sales increase this year, are having an up, while national bookstores like Borders seem to be swirling down the toilet. Iíve been seeing this trend for several years now and companies keep bailing them out.
Hereís the latest potential bailout: "Borders announced Thursday evening that GE Capital has agreed to provide the company with $550 million in new financing, but the deal is subject to a number of conditions..." Publishers arenít too happy with the state of Borders either. Itís never happiness to sink money into a company that may just go bankrupt.
Iíd hate for Borders to go out of business, but it makes me wonder why this is happening. Poor business model, poor management, dwindling customer base? Perhaps a combination of many factors. Other large brick and mortar book chains (i.e. Barnes & Noble) are not having these same difficulties... at least not to the extent of Borders.
Another news item Iíll mention is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), which is supposed to go into effect the second week of February. The CPSIA has become a thorn in the side of just about everyone who works in the manufacturing of childrenís products, including publishers. The crux of the problem is that overbearing and confusing laws are forcing publishers to spend unneeded money testing books for lead and other chemicals. Plus there is a concern for libraries/bookstores that contain older books that have not been tested. Another problem is that there arenít enough testing facilities that can handle such a large demand. These same problems span into other industries like the clothing and toy industries.
Most childrenís books are made from paper and ink, which pose more of a threat for paper cuts than for lead poisoning. What will this mean to the consumer? Perhaps higher costs, perhaps less product options, perhaps more lay-offs, perhaps a warm and fuzzy feeling seeing a label that states that the book doesnít contain harmful quantities of lead (well, duh!). Publishers might as well put a label on their books saying they donít contain arsenic, anthrax, or cooties. I know that would make me feel a lot safer... If the government is scared that too many children under the age of twelve are eating books (and thus somehow becoming poisoned from chemicals not normally found in traditional books), then perhaps we should institute classes in school to teach kids about better nutrition.
Other countries have enacted similar laws to the detriment of everyone. For example, one item I wanted to replace from my house fire was my Time Base Encoder for my video editing hobby. Itís an expensive device that I got from overseas a while ago. Well, turns out that the company canít afford to produce them anymore because the inside components contain lead. Arrg! What does their government think people are going to do with their electronics? Pry open up the devices and lick the solder off of microchips or something!
Okay, I'll get off my high horse about this topic. I'm sure that the CPSIA originated with good intentions (i.e. to protect children from potential hazards). But you don't burn down an entire forest to get to one sick tree. Instead you isolate and rectify the problem, while making exclusions so innocent bystanders don't get hurt.