Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2012 Issue

Borders is Buried, but Kobo Lives On

Borderskobo

Borders and Kobo were partners in sales in an earlier time.

The final significant steps in the dismemberment and burial of Borders have played out, and we now know how many bones are left to be picked over by creditors. Not many, at least if you are an unsecured creditor. The secured creditors will be paid in full, a lesson for everyone loaning money or selling goods on credit. A security interest provides a seat at the table, while unsecured creditors battle like dogs for the crumbs that are spilled below.

Last February, Borders filed for protection from creditors in bankruptcy court. Borders once had over 1,000 stores in America, and at the time of their filing, was still the second largest bookstore chain in America with 642 stores remaining. After the bankruptcy filing, the firm began paring down their weaker stores as it sought a buyer to take over the company as an ongoing business. It looked like that would happen in July, but creditors were dissatisfied with the offer and voted it down. Instead, they chose to shut Borders down, and liquidate its assets. The 399 stores still remaining in July were all shuttered down by the end of September.

Assets, including various leases and inventory were sold. The Borders name and mailing list was purchased by main rival Barnes & Noble for just under $15 million. More recently, its collection of internet URLs was sold for around three-quarters of a million dollars. Along the way, the sale of secured assets paid out the secured creditors in full. What remained unsure is how much the unsecureds, notably the publishing houses that supplied Borders their books on credit, would get. Now we know.

It isn't pretty. The good news is that it appears they will receive something on the high end of the expected range. The bad news is that this amount was expected to be something between 4 and 10 cents on the dollar. It now looks like the amount will be closer to a dime, but a dime is still a dime, not a dollar.

The last significant piece to go, and which figures to throw a few more pennies to those who are still owed between $812-850 million, is Borders' interest in Kobo. Kobo is the firm that made Borders' electronic readers. E-readers have been the success story of these difficult times for large bookstores. For Amazon, the quite successful online book and general merchant, the Kindle electronic reader has propelled them into the huge electronic tablet area, once the sole domain of Apple and its iPad. For Barnes & Noble, seeming to sink rapidly toward irrelevancy and perhaps the same fate as Borders, its Nook e-reader may prove to be the company's savior.

Borders had no e-reader of its own, nothing substantial enough to save the company. It bought its e-readers from Kobo. Kobo was formed by the Canadian bookseller Indigo. That firm held about a 50% interest in Kobo, having sought out investors to help the company along. One was Borders. Borders purchased a 10% share of the company. That is a relatively small percentage, and Kobo trails well behind Amazon and its Kindle, and Barnes & Noble and its Nook. Nevertheless, it does hold a couple of percentage points of the e-reader market, and while dominant nowhere, apparently has a piece in a lot of markets. It is stronger outside of the U.S. than within. In the end, this 10% share of Kobo was the one asset of at least modest value the bankrupt Borders could sell to provide a few more cents in repayments to its unsecured creditors.

Recently, Rakuten, a large Japanese internet retailer (some like to call it the “Amazon of Japan”), decided to purchase Kobo. They paid around $160 million for Chapters' share of the company. An offer was put in with the bankruptcy court for Borders' share, which the court has approved. Borders will receive something in the $27-$32 million range for its share. That is just a drop in the bucket towards the $850 million it owes, but for the unsecured creditors, it was a drop or nothing. And, for those who knew Borders in its final stages, when it finally got around to offering an e-reader, a piece of what was once a part of Borders will survive. Of course, a small electronic device will hardly fill the memories of those spacious floors and aisles, comfortable chairs, coffee and pastry, and long rows of shelves filled with your favorite new books. Keep pressing the buttons on your e-reader. That other experience is gone forever.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000

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