Monday, April 18, 2011

What Borders Bookstores Collapse means to the Black Community

Borders closing means Black writers lose one of their primary outlets
Everything in life has a racial angle, and the closing of Borders bookstores nationwide is no exception. The bookstore that was attacked in a 1999 issue of Mother Jones for putting all books by Black authors in an “African American” section is now lamented for closing and the irreparable damage this will cause to struggling Black writers who saw 30 percent of their overall sales from Borders book segregating practices:
"The closing of our local Border's store really is bittersweet to me," says Afro-American Book Stop owner, Michele Lewis. "I feel for the employees who will lose their jobs in this tough economy."

The news is sad not only for employees but it also delivers a blow to African-American authors, according to Lewis.

"Most Borders across the country have pretty large African-American sections, so I'm concerned about the future growth of African American titles, authors, books, etc." she says. "Roughly 30 percent of the total amount of book sales for African-American authors come from Borders, so a number of our authors will no longer get publishing contracts. There are only about one-fourth of Afri­can-Ame­rican bookstores acr­oss the country that were in business 10 to 15 years ago that are still open today."
 Black writers are grieving over the failure of Borders, primarily because it was one of the only brick-and-mortar venues that grouped books targeted at the Black community together, making it easy for Black people to find and everyone else to avoid. What will people do without Borders?

Get a Nook, Kindle or iPad and upgrade to the 21st century. What will Black writers do without Borders, a company whose practice of grouping Black writers together in one section was attacked as racist but helped account for 33 percent of many Black authors overall sales?

As we learned from Finding Forrester, the next great American novelist is going to be a Black person. Sadly, most Black fiction is ignored by white readers. Our guess is that ghetto, hip hop and urban fiction isn’t jiving with the white audiences, who consist of easily 85-90 percent of the book buying population (walk into a Barnes and Noble and count the minorities you see; those meandering around aimlessly for warmth don’t count).

Jesse Jackson Jr. attacked technologies such as the iPad and Kindles as the reason for unemployment in Illinois, saying:
It seems as if no one can figure out why unemployment is so high in this country except for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. who is blaming the iPad for the country’s joblessness.

Jackson, himself an iPad owner, expanded on his statement by pointing to the recent bankruptcy of Borders Books.

“Why do you need to go to Borders anymore? Why do you need to go to Barnes and Noble? Just buy an iPad and download your book, download your newspaper, download your magazine,” the Congressman said.

Everything in life has a racial angle. The closing of Borders is no exception. Where does Black literature go with the loss of one of the biggest sellers of books by Black authors? As we learned long ago in AP English, Things Fall Apart.

That some book stores segregate books by the race of the author makes literature that one group desires easier to locate; conversely, it makes it incredibly easy to pass over unwanted tripe.

The regrettable failure of Borders means that another venue for Black writers must be located that can carry the heavy burden of filling 1/3 of their sales.

What really needs to be stated is this: ghetto culture is being rejected by most people. Any Black writer capable of putting together a cogent sentence is pushed beyond his abilities (what’s Jayson Blair up to these days?) in the name of diversity.

Black writers have made no footprint in literature, unless said Black writer is pushed for merely being a Black writer.

An essay was published that we took great interest in that asked the question, “Why are there so few Black Supervillains?

The answer is simple: so few Black writers have made an impact with their writing and literature, save for those who write about racism, that no one has bothered to read their work unless forced in some literary class in college or high school.

Why should the onus fall on white writers to create Black supervillains or, for that matter, any Black characters?

An enterprising individual could work to help fill the void that Borders bankruptcy presents to Black authors. Our suggestion is someone creates a Wordpress or Blogspot Web site and recruit the top-writers of Black literature (whoever they might be) and work to convince Black readers to upgrade to Kindles, iPads, or Nooks. The price might seem steep, but digital books are much cheaper than the deadwood variety and much easier to transport on an e-reader.

Our other suggestion is write about something that appeals to people other than “the Blacks.” Black writers who rely on Black readership alone have a small audience. It might seem like a natural market, but this strategy impedes growth.



25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Indeed it is all about race. It always has been about race. While too many whites run around in circles and swear 'it' from the Tea Party, to the education gap, to incarceration rates, to job and school opportunities to X,Y & Z is not about race non whites and their apologist cram it up our ass. Whites are dysfunctional and our opponents know it. They use race as the battering ram for everything meanwhile keeping aracial whites on their heels or is that knees?.

Blue Eyed Devil said...

I have a black Supervillain in mind....ready for it?........Rim Man. That's right, this antagonist roams the country side in some beat up old hoopty sporting some pretty spiffy rims (the size can vary because who gives a shit?) with some righteous bass laden jam spilling out looking to snuff out Y T every chance he can. Oh Shit!!!!! I might be on to a Superhero instead. We all know a character like that would make any DWL proud as hell. The point being, it took me all of ten seconds to think up such a character. Maybe a black mind could give Rim Man some added swagger. There ya go....have at it. Just remember the original idea came from some YT. :)

Lee said...

@Anon 1:51 p.m. Please post in English.

Anonymous said...

Its the same in the video store,the ones predominantly with black actors are still on the shelf

Percy Kittens Reloaded said...

I would have thought that segregating the "African-American" books would have hurt sales. By automatically labelling a book as "African-American", Borders, Barnes & Noble, and any other bookstore totally guarantees that I will never purchase it, because the implicit assumption is that the contents of the book/section would only be of interest to "African-American" readers.

I wonder how many good books written by black authors that I might have been interested in reading were shuttered to the "African-American" section, never to be sold or seen the light of day?

Ironically, two books I have read last year (James Patterson's "Along Came A Spider" and Barbara Hambly's "A Free Man of Color") both featured black protagonists written by white authors.

Maybe the whole "self-segregation" thing isn't working out so well for black people. It didn't work out for BET; Sheila Johnson claimed she was "ashamed" of the network and what it devolved into after she and Robert sold it in 2000. And yet there's a newer all-black channel giving BET a run for its money: "Bounce".
http://www.thewrap.com/tv/article/bet-gets-more-competition-finally-26529

My guess is that these two competing networks will eventually cannibalize each other and, by 2020, having torn each other down, will merge into one awful network instead of two, and will revert back to gangsta-rap and booty-shaking videos 24/7, virtually assuring themselves that no one outside of the "African American" community will watch the programs offered or invest in the networks.

Anonymous said...

"The answer is simple: so few Black writers have made an impact with their writing and literature, save for those who write about racism, that no one has bothered to read their work unless forced in some literary class in college or high school."

This is so true. Blacks are incapable of writing about anything other than their "racial plight." See every book and essay I was forced to read in high school and college that was written by a black author.

Anonymous said...

There apparently is a black-owned bookstore in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by the name of "Black and Nobel." I believe this store sells books by just black authors.

I only know about this bookstore because I once saw a promotional van with some "Black and Nobel" graphics on the body of it. This van was parked on the grounds of an open-air flea market. Overall, this van was some type of garish-looking shade of bright green.

This same van had speakers set up at both ends of it, which were blaring out "gangsta rap" music at an obnoxiously-loud volume. I also could not help but to notice that this same van had the following slogan printed upon it in large boldface type, in several places upon this van:

"WE SHIP TO PRISONS"

I have since discovered that this same slogan is prominently displayed on the official "Black and Nobel" website. Here's the link:

http://blackandnobel.com/

Perhaps this "Black and Nobel" bookstore can pick up whatever slack, if there actually is any, in black-author book sales from all of the closures of the Borders Books store locations. I can at least be rather quite certain that nobody at the corporate headquarters of Borders Books ever saw the necessity of having a "WE SHIP TO PRISONS" slogan on their official promotional materials, store signs, or official web site.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 3:05 PM. Thanks for the hilarious link! I was particularly amused by the site's synopsis of the opus "Black Scarface II":
http://blackandnobel.com/catalog.dws?level=3&id=2501
"The years have come and gone quickly, and Face and Reese are no longer the precious, young street thugs who vandalized the streets of Philly. Older and polished, they are two young men focused on strictly winning in the drug game; a feat few succeed in. After meeting Drug-lords, Rico and Jose Gomez, all their childhood fantasies have become reality. Amble cash, expensive-luxrious cars, and beautiful women are at their beck and call. Life could be no better...."
Oh, what I would do for "amble cash" for my life "could be no better."

Anonymous said...

Books are like Kryptonite to niggers.

Duncan said...

My take is that Borders probably had some sort of "social justice" policy of buying a certain number of "black" titles they know wouldn't sell to the mass market. With that gone, the market for black middle brow books is diminished as well.

Borders was known to be run by left leaning management.

Anonymous said...

My mother's black housekeeper once told me that if you want to hide anything from blacks, put it in a book.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 3:52 PM - You are welcome for the link. It was not until just now that I even took some time to glean the contents of this "Black and Nobel" web site.

If "Black Scarface II 'The Rise of an American Kingpin'" is a literary opus as you claimed, then I would venture to guess that the first "Black Scarface" novel is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, and the only possible reason that this book did not receive such a distinction would simply just have to be on account of "racism" from the folks at Columbia University who administer the annual submission entries.

Anonymous said...

Books are like Kryptonite to niggers.

Thank you, Chris Rock.

Anonymous said...

I am currently on assignment at a US military base in Europe. The book section at the exchange is decent-size. They have a section labeled "Ethnic". EVERY one of the books in the "Ethnic" section is by and about the blacks.

Anonymous said...

I bet a book store is the slowest business in the ghetto.
More blacks go in to rob it than to buy books.

Greying Wanderer said...

"They use race as the battering ram for everything meanwhile keeping aracial whites on their heels or is that knees?"

They were taught White people's big weakness is guilt and they exploit it for the benefit of their ethnic group.

Hirsch said...

Whenever I see books by most modern black authors, I'm reminded of an old saying:

"When one sees a dog walking on its hind legs, you don't ask yourself whether the walking is done well or poorly. One is just surprised to see that it is done at all."

Anonymous said...

Hirsch said...

Whenever I see books by most modern black authors, I'm reminded of an old saying:

"When one sees a dog walking on its hind legs, you don't ask yourself whether the walking is done well or poorly. One is just surprised to see that it is done at all."


Best comment of the week.

Professor Snape said...

Hirsch said:
Whenever I see books by most modern black authors, I'm reminded of an old saying:

"When one sees a dog walking on its hind legs, you don't ask yourself whether the walking is done well or poorly. One is just surprised to see that it is done at all."


I do not mean to divert the thread but Hirsch leaves this non-comment in lieu of rebutting me or finding me the proofs to back up the jive he vomited in the Trump thread?

Man, you've got to love Hirsch.

Hirsch, do us a favor and share the titles of these "modern black books" to which you refer and tell us how many of them you've read to make such an assertion.

We're all typically instructed to read the works of dead white men over blacks, unless it's the protest novel. There's nothing wrong with that but when one spouts folderol like Hirsch just did, you have to wonder from which opening they speak. I have a guess in Hirsch's case but I'll let him tell it.

But, to be fair to Hirsch, I deliberately sought out "Push" by Sapphire after seeing the film and I didn't think it was very good. Anticlimactic and unbelievable. No wonder many blacks thought the film was garbage; the book is better, but not by much.

Okay, Hirsch, now your turn.

*

Our other suggestion is write about something that appeals to people other than “the Blacks.” Black writers who rely on Black readership alone have a small audience.

Whites can have whites and whites only in their books and blacks are still pushed to read them; but blacks cannot do the same? Why is that so!

I want to know how many white readers would pick up Harry Potter or Twilight (very popular books) if the story was identical but the lead characters were black? I have a feeling they wouldn't sell; a friend of mine - she's African-American - wants to write a black Twilight.

I read the former to my niece and I always liked the way JK Rowling put all races of people in her novels. Interestingly, the US edition of the first book in the series mentions one of the characters being black; this is deleted in the UK edition. I wonder why?

I always thought the Brits were fairly open-minded when it came to race; their TV definitely leads you to believing that much.

Anonymous said...

Perfesser Snake... About your friend that wants to write 'black twilight'... She need not bother. You see the Twilight series was about fictional monsters. Black people are real life monsters. Who needs vampires and werewolves when black savages are far more dangerous and all too real.

I usually skip over your long rambling posts.

Anonymous said...

"Professor Snape said...Santa Claus is real, seriously, he's real."

Yawn.

Hirsch said...

Snape, I've tended to the steaming pile you left on a previous thread. Feel free to leave another. It would seem that, in the inimitable words of R. Lee Ermey, you have developed quite the hard-on for me.

If you would like to know which books by what black authors I've read, I'll be happy to furnish you with a partial list here:

I read one of the K'wan novels as well as a Sistah Souljah tale, and for the same reasons that some people watch Ed Wood movies: as an endurance test to see how much kitch one can tolerate.

I've read Dyson and West, found that both did their dutiful best to eschew Strunk's axiom that one should never supply a larger word when a smaller one would do the job just as well. These black intellectuals are the literary equivalent of the "trying to hard" blacks who flashlight tint their windows, raise their wheels and outfit them with lorenzos, creating clownish monstrosities in the process.

An exception the rule would be Walter Mosley, who is good but nowhere near his antecedents like Willeford or Hammett. Mosley, I believe, benefits from having a white mother or father, if I'm not mistaken, which probably gave his IQ a little nitrous boost.

You bop one Desiree and a Snape shows up in her stead. Whack-a-mole (or troll) is losing its novelty.

Professor Snape said...

Thank you for that list, Hirsch; you've passed the test. I was worried you were talking from your rear and had not read a single black book. Apparently, what we have is nothing but a tiny anal "queef"; you know what they say about opinions... That definitely applies to literature as well.

Mosley, I believe, benefits from having a white mother or father, if I'm not mistaken, which probably gave his IQ a little nitrous boost.

You don't believe such antiquated nonsense, come off it.

You bop one Desiree and a Snape shows up in her stead. Whack-a-mole (or troll) is losing its novelty.

Please, stop with the Desiree comparisons. Bless her heart but we are not equal; she has a lot to learn about debate. Did she not state in her profile she was a "20-something black girl"? Youth is considered a virtue, but it is overrated. She has lots of work to do.

It would seem that, in the inimitable words of R. Lee Ermey, you have developed quite the hard-on for me.

Very nice. If your attractiveness is inversely proportional to your intelligence - (wink) - in another universe, you could be my houseboy. As of now, let us stick to debate because I do enjoy debating you. A suggestion, though: if you could ebb the references to other thinkers, doers and work from your own brain, I'd respect you more.

xenopus said...

Just to play the devil's advocate, I will mention Samuel Delany. Delany is definitely a real writer. I don't read him now but twenty years ago Dhalgren was one of my favorite novels.

Georgia McIntosh said...

Your ignorance is totally amazing! Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, I California Cooper, Alice Walker and an infinite list of other black writers.