What's the difference between bookselling giants Amazon and Barns & Noble on the one hand, and Borders and WH Smith on the other? Simple: you have never yet seen a WH Smith- or a Borders-branded eReader. And you never will.
Borders gave up the ghost this week, announcing the closure of 399 US stores with the loss of 10,700 jobs. The UK stores, of course, went before.
WH Smith continues to limp on with a bizarre business model that sees it eake profits principally from publishers paying to get their products on its shelves. But few human consumers see Smiths as the place to buy books. Which leaves Waterstones as the last bastion of high-street book purchasing, and it claims its recent healthy profits are due in part to... 'an enhanced e-reader offer'.
Can we lay the blame for the demise of the high-street bookstore at the feet of the e-reader? Did the Kindle kill Borders?
To an extent the answer is yes. After all: Amazon was banging on about e-books for years before they started to have a significant impact. 'Real people don't use them', we'd say. 'Wait and see', they'd reply.
When first I moved to commuter land, I made a point of counting the number of e-book readers in use in the wild (I live a fascinating life). Two years ago it was a big fat zero. Today you can't move for e-readers, tablets and people hoovering up media on smartphones. There's nary a physical book in sight.
And why would there be? Digital media is cheaper to produce and consume, more versatile in use and easier to carry. You don't see many record players or CRTs on the train, either.
Failing to get to grips with the switch to e-books is part of the reason high-street book stores are failing, but they have only themselves to blame.