Minor Thoughts from me to you

Where Do You Buy Your Books?

When is a monopoly not a monopoly?

"If Barnes & Noble does buy Borders, we're facing a real monopoly," she said, though such a deal would also be likely to receive regulatory scrutiny. "We would see an initial deep discounting, trying to keep or attract the Borders customers to Barnes & Noble."

Meade argues that Barnes & Noble would gain a "monopoly" position, if it bought Borders. I don't think that word means what she thinks it means. Her quote comes from an article on The Changing Bookstore Battle.

Barbara Meade could not resist a little schadenfreude. After the Borders bookstore chain announced recently that it was exploring "strategic alternatives" -- corporate lingo for "there's trouble" -- the co-owner of the independent store Politics and Prose, which has held on against the chain's cost-cutting competition, took note in her online newsletter.

"We have never been tempted by the allure of corporate imperialism -- invading new book markets, slashing prices, demolishing the competition, and then back to business as usual, poor inventory and poor customer service," Meade wrote, reporting that "Borders announced a shift in direction from selling books to selling the whole business."

While it is tempting to marvel at, or even gloat about, the potential demise of a tough competitor, analysts and publishing industry executives say Borders's troubles are emblematic of an ironic shift in book selling. Large corporate booksellers, once an enemy of the little guy, now have enemies of their own: Amazon.com and big-box retailers like Costco and Target are taking on Borders with even deeper discounts than the chains used against the independents.

Barbara Meade, Amazon, Costco, Target -- it seems like Barnes & Noble would still have plenty of competition, even after buying Borders. What monopoly is Barbara Meade referring to?