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All stories relating to Borders

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Alice Munro leads literary programming at this year’s Luminato

Luminato, one of Toronto’s biggest annual cultural festivals, has announced a rare appearance by Alice Munro, who will be interviewed onstage June 10 by Deborah Treisman, fiction editor for The New Yorker.

Running from June 8 to 17, this year’s festival will explore the historical and contemporary relationship between Canada and the U.S., with a timely focus on the War of 1812.

In a press release, Devyani Saltzman, Luminato’s literary programming curator, says, “I’m very excited to explore what it means to write about revolution and transformation – whether political, personal, social, or artistic. Do borders simply exist to transcend, or do they enhance collaboration? We’re thrilled to host wonderful authors engaged in rich conversation about these ideas and more.”

Other writers appearing at the festival include Richard Ford, Vincent Lam, Chris Cleave, Irvine Welsh, Peter Carey, Nicole Krauss, Adam Gopnik, Ayad Akhtar, Jim Lynch, Hari Kunzru, Linden MacIntyre, Michael Ondaatje, and Kyo Maclear.

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Kobo sues Borders, strikes European deal

It’s been a busy week for Canadian e-reading company Kobo. On Tuesday, representatives for Kobo filed documents at a bankruptcy court in New York to ensure that Kobo licenses held by Borders are not put up for sale when the failed U.S. bookstore chain starts liquidating its intellectual property assets. PaidContent.org reports:

Kobo … wants to prevent whoever wins the auction from obtaining the customer data. The company may also be worried because the licenses are likely to contain an exclusivity clause that prevents Kobo from partnering with another seller. … In its filing, Kobo says the licenses are invalid because Borders did not hold up its end of the bargain. The Toronto-based company also says it is illegal under Canadian privacy law to transfer customer data.

Borders was an early partner with Kobo, at one time owning an 11 per cent stake in the e-reading company, which is backed by Indigo Books & Music and the beleaguered REDgroup Retail, among others.

Then, on Wednesday, Kobo announced a new deal with the German store of online retailer Redcoon that will finally introduce the company’s Kobo eReader Touch Edition to the European market (it was originally set to release in Germany in August). The Kobo Touch will be available in October at a price of €149.

According to a press release from Kobo:

Redcoon is one of the largest online retailers for consumer electronics in Europe, serving consumers in Germany as well Austria, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Italy, Denmark and France – in this market segment, the online retailer is seen as a major competitor to Amazon.com in Europe.
“The retail partnership with Redcoon starts in Germany, but is going beyond this market,” [explains Kobo EU director of sales Thorsten Schröer]. “As Kobo expands to additional European countries later this year, Redcoon will offer our products there as well.” Additional leading retail partners will be announced shortly.

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Kobo issues statement about Borders liquidation

Kobo, the Toronto-based e-reading company, has issued an official statement to clarify its position vis-à-vis the recent announcement that the U.S. bookstore chain Borders would be entering liquidation. The statement is in response to “misconceptions about Kobo that have been inaccurately reported by the media and misunderstood by consumers.”

The Borders liquidation is of particular concern to Kobo, since the bookstore chain was an early investor in the e-reading company, with an 11 per cent stake. According to the statement issued today yesterday, “Borders shares are subject to the terms of the Kobo shareholders’ agreement which, among other things, restricts their transfer or disposition.” On Monday, Bloomberg reported that Kobo was one of several creditors to file objections to Borders’ liquidation process in U.S. bankruptcy court.

Where customer service is concerned, Kobo asserts that for some time it has been working to transition Borders’ customers’ e-book accounts to Kobo and will continue to do so.

The Kobo statement quotes CEO Michael Serbinis:

Borders has a minority stake in our company and serves as part of our distribution in the U.S. along with Walmart, Best Buy, Sears, and other leading retailers. As a member of the broader book publishing and retailing community, we are watching Borders’ story and will offer our support to Borders and their employees. Kobo will continue to serve Borders customers – in this time of transition as well as moving forward – to provide the ultimate eReading experience and one of the widest selection of eBooks available to the eReading community worldwide.

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Borders gives up the fight: UPDATED

The embattled U.S. book chain Borders has run out of options in its attempts to find a buyer and will begin the process of liquidating, according to the Detroit Free Press. The liquidation plan, which was presented to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court last Thursday, is the only option left to the big-box bookstore chain after it failed to meet Sunday’s deadline for finding a buyer.

From the Free Press:

“Following the best efforts of all parties, we are saddened by this development,” said Borders Group President Mike Edwards, in a statement. “We were all working hard towards a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time including the rapidly changing book industry, eReader revolution and turbulent economy have brought us to where we are now.”

An article on Paid Content.org states that Borders is closing all of its 399 remaining stores and laying off close to 11,000 employees. Paid Content includes Borders’ official statement, which reads in part:

Subject to the Court’s approval, under the proposal, liquidation is expected to commence for some stores and facilities as soon as Friday, July 22, with a phased rollout of the program which is expected to conclude by the end of September. Borders intends to liquidate under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code and, as a result, Borders expects to be able to pay vendors in the ordinary course for all expenses incurred during the bankruptcy cases.

UPDATE: In the face of Borders’ liquidation announcement, the Canadian e-book company Kobo has voiced objections to the procedure, according to Bloomberg. Creditors filed official objections in bankruptcy court in Manhattan on Monday.

From Bloomberg:

“The debtors are proposing a hurried and confusing sale process that leaves parties such as Kobo uninformed as to precisely what will be sold or how the debtors intend to proceed,” lawyers for Kobo wrote.

Kobo, a Toronto-based maker of electronic books, said it should have the right of first refusal for any transfer of Borders’ 11 percent stake in its equity, and Borders shouldn’t be allowed to sell information that Kobo has licensed to Borders.

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Book links round-up: unfinished manuscripts, Kobo gets ready to rumble, and more

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Daily links round-up: Free Kindles, James Frey, and more

Sundry links from around the Web:

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Book biz round-up: Anna Porter on the “shaky state” of Canadian publishing, and more

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Kobo celebrates e-book week with a round of financing

Kobo today announced it has closed a new round of financing.

The amount of the Series C investment has not been disclosed, but in a statement, the Toronto-based e-publishing company says, “Indigo Books & Music Inc., Kobo’s founding shareholder, invested in this round and maintains majority ownership.”

In December, Kobo raised $16-million from a group of investors that included Indigo, Cheung Kong Holdings, the U.S.-based Borders Group, and REDgroup Retail, which operates Australia’s Angus & Robertson and Borders chains. In the last month, both Borders and REDgroup have filed for bankruptcy protection. There was no mention of either company in Kobo’s statement, which says it plans to use the funding to support “growth in the worldwide eReading market through continued product innovation in the eReading experience and international expansion with new distribution partners, support for a wide range of languages and the world’s best content.”

The announcement arrives during Read an E-Book Week (March 6-12), which celebrates 40 years since Project Gutenberg founder Michael Hart entered text from the U.S. Declaration of Independence into a Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer.

In a guest blog post for Kobo, Hart predicts that in another 10 years one billion e-books will be available for download.

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Borders Australia updates creditors and unpaid staff

Administrators for Australia’s bankrupt REDgroup Retail, the company that owns book retail chains Borders, Whitcoulls, and Angus & Roberstson, held their first creditors’ meetings on Monday in Melbourne and Auckland, New Zealand.

Steve Sherman, from bankruptcy administrator Ferrier Hodgson, told attendees that the bookseller had close to $170 million AUD in debt (approximately $168 million Cdn.) and $6.4 million in cash, when the group entered voluntary administration as of Feb. 17.

Australian website Bookseller+Publisher reports that unsecured creditors, including publishers, are owed $44 million (REDgroup staff is currently owed $7.8 million AUD). The only secured creditor is REDgroup’s owner, private equity group Pacific Equity Partners, which is owed $118 million AUD. According to the Melbourne Herald Sun, “The 80 creditors also heard Borders was holding $45 million in stock and had only $1 million in the bank, while Angus & Robertson’s bank balance was $2.9 million.”

Within the next three days, a decision will be made as to which of the 169 Angus & Robertson, 67 Whitcoulls, and 26 Borders stores will close.

No official word yet on how the bankruptcies will affect Kobo. The Canadian e-book retailer is part owned by REDgroup and Borders U.S. (unrelated to Borders Australia), which declared bankruptcy on Feb. 16.

In Australia, Kobo eReaders are exclusively sold through Borders retail stores. In the U.S. the devices are also available at Walmart. Both the Kobo eReaders and e-books can still be purchased through borders.com.au and borders.com.

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REDgroup insolvency a further challenge for Kobo

It’s been a dismal 24 hours for global bricks-and-mortar booksellers. A day after U.S. chain Borders entered bankruptcy protection, Australia’s largest bookstore chain, Angus & Roberts, entered administration, putting in question the future of its 180 stores. The Australian Borders (which is entirely separate from the U.S. Borders) and New Zealand’s Whitcoulls chain are also in jeopardy.

All three booksellers are owned by REDgroup Retail, which was placed into voluntary administration by the private equity fund Pacific Equity Partners, which has owned the retail conglomerate since 2004.

While the news is a further sign of instability for print books, it could also cause some disruption for Canadian e-book retailer Kobo. Both Borders U.S. and REDgroup are part owners of Kobo and sell the Kobo eReader in their stores; in the short term, it seems inevitable that the device will be sold in fewer physical retail outlets. Kobo, meanwhile, has assured customers in the affected countries that the insolvency of REDgroup and Borders will have no impact on the availability of Kobo e-books.

The Australian cites “a massive downturn in consumer discretionary spending” as the cause of REDgroup’s insolvency, but that isn’t the whole story. Tax-free e-retail and the search for cheaper online products – described by The Sydney Morning Herald as “the Australian consumer’s love affair with online shopping” – was also a major factor, with Australian Publishers Association CEO Maree McCaskill pointing to the impact of the strong Australian dollar. “While the Australian dollar is high, a lot of Australian consumers determine that they will buy whatever they need online and from overseas suppliers,” she commented in the Guardian.

REDgroup chairman Steven Cain also pointed to restrictions on parallel importation – the practice of retailers buying around local suppliers with exclusive territorial rights – as a cause. The Australian parliament recently shot down a proposal to lift restrictions on parallel importation, a move the Canadian Booksellers Association has also called for.

The insolvency of REDgroup does not come as a surprise to Australian publishers after the retail conglomerate reported a $43 million loss last year and laid off several senior staffers.

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