Books and Borders | Sojourners

Books and Borders


"The U.S. invades Canada." Go ahead, laugh it up. Lots of Americans did during Canadian Bacon, a recent film by Michael Moore (of Roger and Me fame), which depicts a fictional American invasion of Canada. In the wake of recent events in the book industry, however, it appears not only that fiction might be fact, but that the move might actually be spearheaded by fiction. American fiction. Mega-book chains Borders and Barnes & Noble, seeking new conquests after capturing 44 percent of the U.S. independent bookstore market, are actively pursuing plans to extend operations into the land of hockey and national health care. While the Canadian government rejected Borders' initial bid in early February for failing to meet strict requirements of Canadian "control in fact," many feel the corporation is merely regrouping before its next offensive. Canadians, predictably, are not amused.

The impending bookstore blitzkrieg, they say, would strike on three fronts: publishing, retailing, and, ultimately, new Canadian writing itself. Currently, Canadian publishers distribute American books on an exclusive basis to Canadian bookstores. These profits, in large part, help to support less lucrative publishing projects by Canadian authors. Bookstore owners participate in the present system out of a commitment to fostering their historic culture.

But an American chain such as Borders, acting in the interests of market culture, would presumably continue its existing relationship with American wholesalers, who effectively underprice any Canadian publisher. This advantage would force Canadian bookstores to turn in kind to American sources, upsetting the fragile agreement between publishers and book stores, thereby threatening the revenue base that allows the publication of new works by Canadian authors, poets, and dramatists. In short, the entry of U.S. superchains could weaken if not destroy the Canadian distribution system,

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1996
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