Saturday, April 01, 2006

Sabre-rattling against Borders Booksellers

There have been quite a few calls, like this at, for bloggers and other freedom-minded individuals to respond to the Borders Group, Inc. management decision against stocking one magazine because (a) it contained the dreaded cartoons of Muhammad and (b) the presence of said cartoons in a store could constitute a threat to store employees. I've already said my piece as to how I'd react if I'd still been working for BGI. I would desperately want them to send me as many copies as I could fit on the shelves and in the windows.

It's not just about freedom of press, it's about our right to decide for ourselves, and not by some group who take offense at my not covering my head as I go out in public.

Well, now the rumor on the 'net is that Borders Group is in financial trouble. It would not surprise me -- many of its stores are in malls, which too quickly after opening see an upturn in overhead and a downturn in foot traffic. Plus, the competition from Barnes and Noble and Amazon can be fierce. Add to it that the entire print industry has been taking more than a few hits, from the electronic world and the rest of us (remember the "Million Little Pieces" scandal?). I don't doubt that a few books will do well, and some magazines can break even, but, by and large, they're going to have to do some serious rethink in order to keep afloat.

And this is where I worry.

Corporate chiefs are not always the best at long-term thought. Obviously. Otherwise, none would ever have caved to the demands of the Islamists in the first place.

I love my books. I usually have five or six going at a time (right now, I'm in the middle of Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott, Milton's Paradise Lost (again), Wau-Bun: The Early Day in the North-West, by Mrs. John H. Kinzie -- published in the first decade of the 1900s --, and two textbooks on creative writing -- one on fiction, one on nonfic). I look forward to trips to the BIG CITY so I can stop in at the many book stores and sniff the ink. In my view, the loss of a single outlet for books is comparable to the sacking of a temple.

So, instead of bloggers calling for the boycott of a book store chain, I would beg you to simply go into the stores nearest you, step up to the person at the counter, and ask to place a special order for the April-May issue of Free Inquiry magazine. Bring all your friends with you. Even if the clerk says, "We can't get that for you, " politely say to him (or her), "That's okay. Just let your bosses know we asked for it." If enough people make this special request, they'll get the point much more clearly than via the extortionate boycott.

They will understand that the public will support them, when they take a risk for the public.

1 comment:

Big E said...

Thanks for that. Media outlets need to be responsive to their local constituency. If Arab newspapers don't want to print the Muhammed cartoons, fine. Just don't expect people half a world away in Illinois to make the same choice.

Hear that, Daily Illini?