Of books and borders

In the bookstore business, protectionism can be lucrative

Of books and borders

Michael Falco/The New York Times/Redux

The collapse of U.S. bookstore chain Borders was largely ignored in Canada. Things might have been much different. Almost 15 years to the day before the chain fell into bankruptcy protection—and before the current debate over Canadian protectionism—then-Liberal industry minister John Manley barred Borders from expanding into Canada. The company had signed a deal with Toronto financier Heather Reisman to open a massive store in Toronto, but Manley feared “Canadian stories, Canadian books, Canadian authors” would lose their voice. Instead, Reisman formed Indigo. The move gave her a near monopoly on readers’ wallets, and, arguably, contributed to the higher book prices Canadians have paid in the absence of any real competition. It’s worked well for Indigo. Last quarter, Indigo sales were $387 million, or 80 per cent of what Borders took in during all of last year. Protectionism pays, for some.

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