July 20, 2011

Without Borders

I used to have a ritual. Every Friday, I'd try to leave the office a couple minutes early and I'd head to my local Borders and browse. Those days are gone.

from CNN...
Borders Group will liquidate its remaining assets after efforts to find a buyer fell through, the bookstore chain announced Monday. The nation's second largest book seller, which filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year, currently operates 399 stores and employs approximately 10,700 workers.

Mike Edwards, president of Borders Group, said in a written statement that he was saddened by the development and that the decision came despite "the best efforts" of all parties. "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," Edwards said.

It's sad. Not surprising, but sad.

Lots of things have changed over the last few years. eBooks gained steam and made a significant dent in book retail. They're convenient and cheap and even if you have no interest in ebooks, it's hard to argue with online shopping. Borders screwed up because it didn't embrace a new pricing model (their retail shops sold most of their books at full retail price) to compete with Amazon. And they never fully embraced ebooks, launching a partnership with Kobo devices way too late in the game. There's no way they could compete.

I'm pretty sure that bookstores are headed the way of record stores. When's the last time you saw a brick and mortar record store? Even the supply of DVDs and CDs in big box and warehouse stores is shrinking giving way to ways of getting content to you in the comfort of your own home - set-top boxes, tablets, smart phones, e-readers and laptops.

While I love the convenience and instant gratification, a little piece of me misses endless browsing through CD bins and record stores. And another piece of me wonders what's next?

Posted by Chris at July 20, 2011 7:04 AM

In reading the analysis of a couple of friends that used to work for Borders, one of them a manager for many years, their consensus is that the failure of Borders has nothing to do with Amazon, e-books, or the economy.

It was shitty management, plain and simple. They tried to expand too quickly.

Posted by: COD at July 20, 2011 8:14 AM

Borders has seemed to have a revolving door of CEOs over the last several years and a raft of poor management decisions.

And you're right about Borders not embracing the new pricing model. When I went to Borders to buy some books at Christmas time, many of them were ~$10 more than the same book on Amazon. I try to buy local (I consider Borders local and not a chain because it started in my backyard), but that was too big of a price difference to ignore.

Posted by: Carolyn at July 20, 2011 8:21 AM

This April we participated in Record Store Day--what a blast. We visited three stores in Baltimore and found stuff we needed (yes, need is an appropriate word in this case) at each one. My friend who owns one of the stores said it was a huge boost to his business. Problem is, the stores tend to be tucked away in odd corners and sometimes can be kind of creepy and smell funny. But Record Store day was lots of fun and we've been back to one of our new discoveries a couple of times. Keep an eye out for it next spring.

Posted by: Mary W at July 20, 2011 8:26 AM

I am totally saddened by this. It was my place to escape and shop for something I truly loved. I do hope Borders.com will stick around though. What about my rewards?

Posted by: Claire at July 20, 2011 8:39 AM

Very sad, but probably bound to happen. I have many happy memories of browsing book stores.

Posted by: Fraulein N at July 20, 2011 8:41 AM

Chris, I love little bookstores and the big giants. I admit that being a former librarian that I will miss it if these wonderful spots disappear!

Not that technology isn't awesome but picking a book out based on the cover art and exploring is what I love about books in general.

But while we embrace technology you can't take a priceless historical manuscript and place it on a kindle! Going into a special collections library blows the mind seeing history preserved and really that is hard to translate into the digital realm. Yes, you can get a lot of priceless treasures digitally, but nothing compares with seeing and touching a book that looks like a work of art!


Posted by: Julie Andel at July 20, 2011 8:54 AM

I feel much the same way with the sadness.

As for what's next? I am thinking at some point they will just start implementing microchips with the information that we upload to our brains.

I very much miss browsing records, then tapes, then CDs.

My one hope for books is that, even if all the book stores go away...Public Libraries will continue to grow. I mean, something's got to be done with all those books people are getting rid of in the name of going digital, right??


Posted by: Holly Reynolds at July 20, 2011 9:06 AM

We don't have Borders here but I am still sad to see it go. Our Barnes & Noble seems to be doing okay but they don't have the inventory they once did and they've cut staff. We do have a used bookstore downtown but I don't know for how much longer.

Posted by: ann adams at July 20, 2011 9:47 AM

I would guess that electronics stores are next. I've been buying my electronics online for 6 years or more now. Radio Shack, Best Buy, you are in trouble.

Posted by: Brad at July 20, 2011 10:31 AM

The headline should read, "Having destroyed the local bookstore industry, Borders suffers from Karmic Payback, motherfuckers."

Posted by: Aaron at July 20, 2011 11:42 AM

I'm a stay at home mom to two little boys and Borders was where I would go to restore my sanity. Bookstores just calm me. I'm so super bummed about this. The only other bookstore even remotely close is a Barnes and Nobles in a REALLY scary town that I'm just not willing to go to!

Posted by: Holly at July 20, 2011 11:55 AM

Yeah, I love the convenience and green-ness, but I do miss hanging out in the record store. That was a staple Friday/Saturday night activity for my friends and me in high school. Drive up to Tower Records, see what's new, scope out the boys

Posted by: Brooke at July 20, 2011 12:20 PM

Sadly, this is one of the casualties of the age of electronic communications. We lose our ability to actually touch the things we are buying, to sit and be present for the experience, and instead send it home in a wire or through the air, to receive it there only to recreate it in the more sterile environment of our personal computer screen or on an Ipod, where we can get the music, or the movie, or the book we want, free from human interactions.

Ironically, the more we become connected to other people's lives, the more we become disconnected from the experience of people.

Posted by: Jon (was) in Michigan at July 20, 2011 12:31 PM

I'm not surprised that a lot of Borders trouble came down to management/expansion decisions. Even with the ascendance of ebooks, the Barnes & Noble across the street from my office is always packed, while the Borders a few blocks away closed months ago. My experience with ebooks (and by extension, MP3 downloads), is that the ease of grabbing digital copies has introduced me to authors (or bands) that I wouldn't have experienced otherwise. Tracking down the back catalog for the author or band frequently brings me into a brick&mortal bookstore, or used record shop. I find myself purchasing more, and more varied types, of media than I had previously.

Posted by: J at July 20, 2011 4:26 PM

I know that e-readers are all the thing, but there is still nothing like a BOOK in my hand.

Posted by: Maribeth at July 20, 2011 5:22 PM

I love books, real books and I will not be using an e-reader anytime soon. I was never really a fan of Borders. The Barns and Noble by my house always had better priced books and I have always been a fan of used book stores, as I have found some amazing out of print books I was lucky to get a hold of.I miss Tower records when we would stand outside for two days trying to get tickets to some horrible glam band in the 80s. On our nights off we love to grab the kids and go to the book stores, we have coffee, the kids have hot chocolate and it is just a good time for all of us.

Posted by: Shannon at July 21, 2011 1:25 AM

I know I always seem to make the same comment, but seriously, this subject has to be one of the reasons for living in Europe! Yes, France is undoubtedly "behind" the US in many, many areas, but at least we still have bookshops (big chain stores, like Virgin, Fnac and Gibert Joseph, small, local stores like Sauramps here in Montpellier or Decitre in Lyon) and record shops, and people still buy tons of actual CDs, DVDs and books! As far as I can tell, there's no sign of it changing here (Sauramps, for example, is always packed, as is Fnac). And for that I, the eternal Luddite now too poor to invest in expensive electronic alternatives, am infinitely grateful! (That doesn't mean I have anything against the US - au contraire! I'd love to visit again! But still. I think I'd feel like a total freak... even more than I do normally, I mean.)

Posted by: Kirsty at July 21, 2011 9:27 PM

Oh, this is so sad. While I rarely buy print books anymore (and almost never buy them from a store), I really did love Borders as a bookstore. It was a wonderful place to wander, kill time, and explore. I now feel really guilty, since most of my recent trips there have been to scope out and flip through books before buying them on Amazon. However, you hit the nail on the head: by selling books at full price, they really did knock themselves out of the game.

Still incredibly sad, though.

Posted by: Dawn at July 22, 2011 9:53 AM