Nebraska Book Company, which operates 290 college stores, has 2,500 bookstore customers for its textbook division and has 1,600 technology platforms and e-commerce sites used by various bookstores, has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
The company portrayed the filing as a way to "substantially reduce debt at the parent company level and position itself for future growth." Nebraska Book Co. is a subsidiary of NBC Acquisition Corp. The message was summed up in the company's weirdly worded press release title: "Nebraska Book Company Announces Agreement for Recapitalization."
Nebraska is restructuring some $450 million of outstanding loans and eliminating $77 million in debt. "This agreement solves balance sheet issues we have been addressing for months," president Barry Major said.
The Nebraska Book Company has total assets of $657,215,757 and total debts of $563,973,688, according to bankruptcy court filings. Besides financial institutions and non-book suppliers, major creditors include a range of textbook publishers. Those with the highest amounts owed are Pearson Education ($4.9 million); Cengage Learning ($2 million); Elsevier ($510,457); McGraw-Hill ($490,840); and Missouri Book Services ($386,858). As of yesterday, the company had $20 million in cash on hand and had obtained commitments for $200 million in bankruptcy financing.
The front page of today's New York Times features a stunning photo of the flooding in Minot, N.Dak., as the Souris River reached a level not seen in 100 years. Good news, however, from that city's Main Street Books, which reports that "record breaking water flows through Minot have all but forced the closure of our city... in the midst of all the sand bagging and strolling through my business neighborhood a young National Guardsman ran up to me as I was walking away. He had a big smile on his face when I turned: 'It looks like the bookstore is going to be okay!' "
The store added: "As thousands have been evacuated and now find themselves homeless, we want to remind them they are welcome always for free coffee and conversation and hugs. Because we firmly believe that not only is the bookstore going to be okay, but so is Minot."
Indigo Books & Music, Canada's largest book retailer, is reinventing itself by expanding digital options through Kobo, adding non-book merchandise to the store mix as well as retaining its traditional role as bookseller, according to the Toronto Star.
Concerning the company's digital strategy--it founded Kobo, which has an e-reader and apps, although some of its international partners, including Borders in the U.S., aren't faring well in general--CEO Heather Reisman said, "Indigo is in the business of encouraging people to read. We don't care if people want to read digitally or physically." Reisman stated that Kobo's market share in the U.S. is third, "in the double digits," behind the Kindle at 41% and Barnes & Noble at 27%--a share larger than other estimates.
Non-book products include more toys and gifts, book-related items and--starting this fall--home décor. Reisman commented: "Our interest is in beautifully designed, affordable products that continue the journey people are already taking with us. So, you're reading and we're into reading lamps, writing materials and desk accessories. People come to us for cookbooks and table design. So we're extending things for the table."
To help this effort, in April Indigo appointed as president Tedford Marlow, who had been president of Urban Outfitters for nearly a decade.
The Boston Globe surveys how some independent bookstores in the region are competing:
Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, is "trying a little bit of everything," including possibly buying a POD machine. Co-owner and manager Dana Brigham said, "We can't sleep through the changes going on all around us. For most of its history, [Booksmith] has been in a constant state of responding to changes and challenges in our market."
Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Boston, finds synergy in its two specialties. Store manager Max Clark said, "I don't think one could really work without the other: people really enjoy the fact that they can come and have cup of coffee and read a book." The store is considering taking "its concept on the road, stocking a truck with literature and lunch to bring the store to customers," the Globe wrote.
Two-year-old Seek Books, Boston, which specializes in used sci-fi and has 650 square feet of space, is, not surprisingly, seeking survival in being small and finding a niche.
Algonquin Books and Barnes & Noble have teamed up to try an unusual type of bundling: customers at some 300 B&N stores who buy one of 12 designated trade paperback books can then buy one of 12 designated e-books for $3. In October, in a second more direct type of bundling, customers at B&N and at independent bookstores who buy the hardcover of When She Woke by Hillary Jordan receive a free e-book version of the title.
"We spend a lot of time lately trying to figure out how to sell books in this new world order," Algonquin publisher Elisabeth Scharlatt told the New York Times. "And particularly to help booksellers to sell hardcover books, which seems increasingly difficult. So this seemed like one way of calling attention to a book by giving an incentive to the customer."
Bob Miller, group publisher of Workman, which owns Algonquin--Miller is a longtime proponent of bundling--commented: "Consumers are starting to feel like, 'If I'm buying the book, why do I have to buy it several times to have multiple formats?'"
In another e-book experiment, Politico.com is teaming up with Random House to publish four e-books about the 2012 presidential campaign that will be written by Mike Allen, Politico's chief White House correspondent, and Evan Thomas, the political reporter who has written for Newsweek and Time, the New York Times reported. Each book will be 20,000-30,000 words; the first appears "sometime before Christmas."
Random House executive editor Jon Meacham called the unusual series--in the past detailed books about the campaign appeared after the election--a way to change readers' perception of publishers. "An impetus here is to encourage people to think of book publishers in a more periodical way," he told the Times, adding, "I think the marriage of Politico's reporting and Random House's narrative strengths is a great one."
We all know Borders is bombing, but the last thing it needs is to be bombed.
While the FBI is not calling them bombs, two "small, crude devices... partly functioned" in the Borders store in the Colorado Mills mall in Lakewood, Colo., Saturday morning and caused "minimal damage" to a small part of the store, according to the Denver Post. The store had been broken into during the night, and an alarm alerted police, who called the county bomb squad.
Yesterday police said that an "item" that was not a "device"--in English, probably something related to the bombs but not a bomb--was found outside the mall near the bookstore, 9news reported.
On Saturday, the store was closed although the rest of the mall was open. Local police, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating.
In April, an unexploded device consisting of two small propane canisters and a makeshift pipe bomb were discovered at another area shopping mall. In that case, a 65-year-old man was arrested and charged.
During the first quarter of 2011, Amazon spent $630,000 lobbying the federal government regarding online sales tax rules, data protection, privacy concerns and other issues, according to a quarterly disclosure report filed April 22 with the House and Senate clerk's offices. The Associated Press (via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) noted that this figure represents an increase over the fourth quarter of 2010 ($530,000) as well as the first quarter last year ($540,000). The disclosure report also showed that Amazon's lobbying has targeted Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Reserve this year.
On NPR's Weekend Edition on Saturday, Laura Miller, reviewer for Salon.com, Ron Charles, fiction critic for the Washington Post, and freelance reviewer Rigoberto Gonzalez recommended the following titles for summer reading:
The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit by Mark Seal (Viking)
State of Wonder by Ann Pachett (Harper)
Doc by Mary Doria Russell (Random House)
West of Here by Jonathan Evison (Algonquin Books)
Orientation: And Other Stories by Daniel Orozco (Faber & Faber)
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (Algonquin)
In addition, Charles unofficially recommended A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (Bantam Spectra), the first part of the Song of Ice and Fire series and the basis for the recent--and excellent--HBO series.
Book trailer of the day: Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They Have Loved and Lost, edited by Barbara Abercrombie (New World Library). Get out your Kleenex.
The Hollywood Reporter featured "5 beach blanket must reads."
These titles not cleared for takeoff: The 15 worst books to read on a plane were showcased by the Huffington Post.
How to make a bedside lamp in a hollow book. Boing Boing noted that the "book's cover is the switch, and the book's designer says he wanted to prove that literature is illuminating."