The placing of national book chain Whitcoulls in voluntary administration is yet another example of an iconic New Zealand company being bought out and loaded up with debt, a union representing staff says.
Borders and Whitcoulls were put under administration in Australia and New Zealand yesterday.
Australian parent company REDgroup Retail, which manages operations in both countries, called in voluntary administrators to the business.
I’ve watched Borders’ slow motion collapse, first in the UK and now in the US, and have wondered what would happen to our Borders stores. Today I have my answer and it’s not good. The New Zealand stores, along with the Whitcoulls chain, are owned by an Australian company which finds itself in trouble. I hope that by closing some stores, tightening their focus on books, and working hard to increase ebook sales, they can trade their way out of trouble.
The real problem they’re facing though, is Amazon. It’s often cheaper for me to import books from the US or UK, even after I account for shipping costs and the vagaries in the exchange rate. It can cost over $30 to buy a trade paperback in Whitcoulls or Borders and about $20 for a mass market paperback. Hardcover prices are just ridiculous. I can’t bring myself to pay those prices so I tend to buy books on sale or when Borders is running one of its promotions.
We spend a lot of time in bookshops and I love to browse. It’s fun to stumble on something unexpected and it’s hard to beat going home with a pile of books and settling down in a corner for a spot of binge reading. But mostly these days I buy online. Whitcoulls has a good website and they could do worse than really focusing their efforts here. It’s not easy to source legal copies of ebooks in New Zealand because of the (silly) geographical restrictions publishers have placed on many titles. But Whitcoulls has done some really good deals with publishers. The selection is great, much better than what’s available on the Sony ereader website, or at Amazon for the Kindle, and they’ve sensibly decided to make the price of an ebook slightly cheaper than the equivalent paperback. I really like the model and the choice, so I hope the website survives. They’re also good at sourcing and shipping books. Pretty much everything I want is available on their website. Delivery is prompt and if something goes wrong the phone support is quick and actually supportive.