Borders Group Inc.'s bankruptcy filing left a long list of publishers with a big hole in their pockets and the prospect of fewer stores to promote their books.

Borders Group Inc. filed for Chapter 11 Wednesday, after facing insurmountable debt and increasing competition from Internet-only retailers such as and the advent of digital books and e-readers. Jeffrey Trachtenberg joins digits to discuss.

"If publishers are lucky, they'll get back 25 cents on the dollar," said Jed Lyons, chief executive of Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc., which publishes its own titles and distributes books for other publishers through its National Book Network. According to Wednesday's filing, Borders owes National Book Network $2 million.

Although many publishers scaled back deliveries to Borders in the past year as its finances worsened, the filing showed they were the bookseller's biggest unsecured creditors, with the six largest on the list owed a combined $182 million. In first place was Penguin Group (USA), a unit of Pearson PSO +1.06% Pearson PLC ADS U.S.: NYSE $17.15 +0.18 +1.06% April 4, 2014 4:00 pm Volume (Delayed 15m) : 1.58M AFTER HOURS $17.16 +0.01 +0.06% April 4, 2014 5:17 pm Volume (Delayed 15m): 21,248 P/E Ratio 16.13 Market Cap $14.04 Billion Dividend Yield 6.22% Rev. per Employee $188,508 More quote details and news » PLC, which Borders owes $41.1 million, followed in close order by Lagardère +0.28% Lagardere S.C.A. France: Paris 28.88 +0.08 +0.28% April 4, 2014 5:35 pm Volume : 340,060 P/E Ratio 2.43 Market Cap €3.79 Billion Dividend Yield 4.50% Rev. per Employee €299,817 02/11/14 Lagardère Sees Stronger Profit... 01/28/14 After Leaving Amazon, Laurence... 01/06/14 Book Publishers Sell Bookish S... More quote details and news » SCA's Hachette Book Group and CBS Corp.'s CBSA -1.84% CBS Corp. Cl A U.S.: NYSE $61.50 -1.15 -1.84% April 4, 2014 4:03 pm Volume (Delayed 15m) : 995 P/E Ratio 21.65 Market Cap $36.53 Billion Dividend Yield 0.78% Rev. per Employee $618,785 More quote details and news » Simon & Schuster Inc.

Timeline: Borders History

David Shanks, chief executive of Penguin Group (USA), said in a statement that Penguin will work "closely with Borders management" to support the emergence of Borders as a "smaller but stronger book retailer."

Borders, which stopped paying key publishers in December, and said Wednesday that it will close around 30% of its stores, has indicated that it intends to come back to publishers in about 30 days with a detailed plan of how it will go forward, according to one publishing executive. Until then, it is likely that at least some publishers will ship new titles to Borders only on a cash basis.

"We have to see something that will give us confidence," this executive said. "My understanding is that they assume there will be a lot of COD business absence that plan."

In a statement, a Borders spokeswoman pointed to commitments the retailer has received for $505 million in debtor-in-possession financing, which should enable its stores to "be competitive for customers in terms of goods, services and the shopping experience."

Major publishers have suffered big losses before, such as from the bankruptcy of wholesaler Advanced Marketing Services Inc., which filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in December 2006 and was later liquidated.

But Borders's filing comes as the book business is increasingly tilting toward digital sales. The company lacks its own proprietary e-reading device and depends upon another retailer to power its e-bookstore.

Several publishing executives said the Borders filing might cause some companies to rethink their commitment to the book business, potentially leading to greater consolidation in the publishing industry.

"The situation could be more difficult for some of the smaller publishers who not only have the financial exposure but are losing many store outlets," said one executive.

"Say you allocated 6,000 copies of a book for the Borders chain. Where are those physical books going to go now?" this executive said, "There's no indication that the remaining physical booksellers, large or small, will take them."

The looming closure of two hundred Borders Group stores will make it harder to introduce new writers, the lifeblood of the industry, another senior industry executive said.

This person said the industry has no marketing substitute for the big tables at the front of bookstores that display the latest in fiction and nonfiction works.

"Bookstores are where discovery takes place," this person said. "It's not as easy to discover books digitally. It may become less economical to build new voices, books for which Borders could sometimes be 30% to 40% of a print run if they were excited about a title."

One area in which Borders excelled was its focus on fancy paperbacks, still a key publishing profit center. Last year, for example, Borders spotlighted the paperback edition of Chris Cleave's novel "Little Bee," helping to turn a book that had been a modest success as a hardcover in 2009 into a national best seller.

"I'd like to see them survive," said Rowman & Littlefield's Mr. Lyons. "We have some clients whose books sell incredibly well at Borders but not at Barnes & Noble, BKS -5.44% Barnes & Noble Inc. U.S.: NYSE $18.08 -1.04 -5.44% April 4, 2014 4:00 pm Volume (Delayed 15m) : 2.66M AFTER HOURS $17.93 -0.15 -0.83% April 4, 2014 7:04 pm Volume (Delayed 15m): P/E Ratio N/A Market Cap $1.08 Billion Dividend Yield N/A Rev. per Employee $186,367 04/03/14 U.S. Stocks End Lower 04/03/14 Liberty Media to Reduce Barnes... 03/19/14 Time to Move on: Sony Shuts Do... More quote details and news » and vice versa. They have their own customers who have a slightly different profile."

Write to Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg at