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When the news came that Borders Books Store had [finally] gone into bankruptcy and would be closing about 200 of it's stores, I found myself conflicted. Of course, I feel bad for the poor folks who'll be out of a job, just as I would if any other company went bust, who wouldn't? That said, I just can't empathize with many of the blog posts, Tweets and articles which came soon after, lamenting the passing of a giant in the industry and fretting about the state of today's publishing world.

First, as I understand it, Borders owes a lot of money to small publishers, most of which will probably never get paid now the company's in bankruptcy. Some of the big companies, like Wiley (who've written off $9m in debt), have already accepted they won't get what they're owed and moved on. That's very noble of them (no bookstore pun intended). It must be great to have the finances to take that kind of a hit, I hope I'm wrong on this, but I can't help wondering how many small press publishers will find themselves in financial difficulties because Borders decided paying them wasn't important enough? Sure they may get part (or even all) of their money, but not soon enough for some.

Second, although I have a big Borders store closeby, I can't remember the last time I bought a book in there. Don't get me wrong, I buy a lot of books, many of them in person from the author at book fairs/cons and other events, but I order most of my books online these days. Why go all the way to a bookstore only to be told to come back next week because they have to order what you want, when you could have stayed home and ordered it online yourself.  

Whatever the nostalgic vision of the Borders that once was, for a long time now it's been a store that sells mostly books rather than a book store. The last time I went in to my local Borders was December 2009. I bought a CD. I could just as easily have bought a board game or a greetings card. I love the smell and feel of a book, but if I want to browse the shelves, I go to a my local library. They need my support more than Borders or Barnes & Noble.

How about you?

What's your take on the Borders bookstore bankruptcy thing?

Poll #1709020 Borders

What's your take on the Borders bookstore bankruptcy thing?

I feel bad for the folks losing their jobs, but I rarely (if ever) shop there, so it doesn't affect me.
Big bookstores are extinct, they just don't know it yet.
I buy most of my books from Borders. I'll miss them.
I used to buy from the big bookstores, but not for a while now.
I have as much sympathy for Borders as they had for the small bookstores they put out of business.
Borders has gone bankrupt?
Something else, which I'll mention in the comments.

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( 72 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 23rd, 2011 06:49 pm (UTC)
i buy vbooks online where it's cheaper. but it's a shame about borders cos here in the uk at least they did book signings for small writers. they shut down over here last year or maybe even before, so it's not a surprise they're gone everywhere. but it is a shame that there is one less plae for small writers to sell their stuff
Feb. 23rd, 2011 06:56 pm (UTC)
That's true.
(no subject) - mary_j_59 - Feb. 25th, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)
I have to admit that, outside of events like you mentioned, I buy all my books online. It's one thing to go browse, pick up a few books, but when you're in for a specific book that they then have to order for you, necessitating another trip back--yeah, not good.

I have this to say about bookstores in general--the big bookstores killed the little ones, and now the big ones are being killed by the internet. I DO believe that there CAN be a resurgence in the small, local bookstore--if they do something MORE than sell books.

Case and point--my local bookstore. They do nothing. No events. No signings. The books there when she bought the place are still there. There's a very small "new books" section. If you want something she doesn't have, anywhere from one to three days to get it in. I believe there's a children's story hour one a week/month.

The small stores need to be innovative. They need to do something to draw people in, to make it OK when they don't have a book and you have to come back, to make it worth paying a few extra bucks for a book you can have delivered to your door. That lack of innovation, as much as the Borders and its ilk, is why many small bookstores couldn't survive.

I'm getting down off my soapbox now...
Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:32 pm (UTC)
The small stores need to be innovative.

I agree, and not in a 'Let's have some authors come and sign books' kind of way either (though books signings can be good. If I owned a bookstore, I'd be looking to get writing groups/book reading clubs involved, letting them hold meetings there, inviting guests to come and talk about writing.
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wendigomountain - Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Feb. 24th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
Borders in the UK went bankrupt about 18 months ago, so this isn't very surprising news. I love bookstores, but like you, I almost always buy on-line now, mainly because I can be sure I get what I want almost straight away. Not to mention slightly cheaper because of Amazon's low-overhead operation.

A f'r'instance: I recently came (shamefully late for someone who loves the western genre) to McMurty's 'Lonesome Dove' and wanted to read the rest of the series. Even the huge Books Etc on Picadilly only had Lonesome Dove itself, and none of the others. They could order the books I wanted but it could three weeks or more to get them (they couldn't say and wouldn't commit to a definite time - might be two weeks, might be four, might be never....). I ordered them on Amazon that night and had them in 3 days. No contest, really.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
It's not even the bookstores' fault. They can't possibly stock every book that's out in every store, but the internet is such a big gamechanger, and I think stores need to change their game if they want to even survive, much less compete.
(no subject) - starry_diadem - Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:33 pm (UTC)
Well, Borders has been very, very supportive of my books. I don't know how many of my book sales come from Borders, but I'm guessing it's a big percentage. Some towns don't have any bookstore in it but a Borders.

Someone on twitter (I don't remember who) said that if Borders doesn't pay publishers, publishers won't pay authors that money that is owed to them. I don't know if that's true or not, but I'd love to find out.

I'm trying not to worry about it, because it's out of my hands, and doesn't do me any good. But... I do find it very sad.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
I hope I'm wrong about the small publishers not getting paid, but my understanding is that companies who file for bankruptcy weigh the huge stigma associated with it against the debt they get to renege on.

Edited at 2011-02-23 07:38 pm (UTC)
Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC)
I'm sad in so far as I worry about what it means for the industry as a whole.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
The industry as a whole is changing, that much is certain.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:40 pm (UTC)
I'm going to be really sad if/when bookstores go the way of music stores. I buy some books online, but I prefer to buy books from local indie bookstores, especially when they're hosting author events. I'm hopeful at least the indie/niche bookstores can keep that kind of thing up, but expect it's going to be tough.

I have fond memories of browsing the Big Bookstores, whether it be Borders or B&N. That was something I looked forward to doing.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC)
I have fond memories of browsing the Big Bookstores

Me too, Dave, but it's one of those things you suddenly realize you stopped doing a while ago, like when I noticed I no longer listened to the music stations on the radio :(
(no subject) - krylyr - Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:48 pm (UTC)
A trip to Borders used to be my birthday treat. I used to walk around the store for hours, much to my wife's chagrin, picking up one book after another, totally undecided on which I wanted to buy. Until my wife would shout "Just pick ONE already!!!" Then we'd have a coffee at the cafe.

Like you, I enjoy looking around in bookstores, but recently, I've seen a lot of junk at bookstores. Entire isles dedicated to Edward Cullen and Bella, where my beloved geek books had been. Then the usual percent off I would get for being a Borders Rewards member turned into a way to spam me. No more ten to twenty percent off for me. But here's an ad for FTD florists!

We went to the local Borders which is closing. EVERYTHING MUST GO!!! Everything in the store was...20% off. WTF? That's less savings than I used to get with my rewards card? So, my wife and I walked around for twenty minutes talking about how we could get everything cheaper at Amazon.com.

I can see why they went under, and I'm not sad anymore.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC)
Then the usual percent off I would get for being a Borders Rewards member turned into a way to spam me.

That's a good point. Just because you can email your customers five times a week, doesn't mean you should.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
We have a lovely Borders in the mall here, and so far it's not closing. I shop at it from time to time, too often to do answer #1, cause it's kind of a fun thing I do maybe every other month, just for kicks.

I do think the management of the chain missed the boat, and have earned this.

But to be honest, although I go to Borders several times a year, I go to Amazon nearly every day.

The days have gone forever when, as a kid in New Orleans, I would get off the bus downtown, check out the Doubleday book store near the Burger King on Canal St., then walk down and cross the street and shop in this lovely, and large bookstore I can't remember, then walk down Royal St. and hit several wonderful used (sometimes used and new) bookstores, then go to the Mall and hit 3 different bookstores, all in the search for the novels I was chasing down in one of Michael Morecocks SF/Fantasy series (and often buying other things along the way). Now I just hop over to Amazon and order them, sometimes paper, sometimes ebook.

Times have changed.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean. Back in the 70s, I used to work a few hundred yards from Foyles, a marvelous bookstore in central London. I could lose myself in there for hours :)
(no subject) - knittingknots - Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - knittingknots - Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 23rd, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
I'm glad to see someone posting this. Honestly, I used to never buy books until buying them online came along. If I wanted a book I went to my library. Borders and Barnes&Noble charged too much for my sorry bank account. The babies needed formula and diapers more than I needed to buy a book. Financially now, I make more money off an e-book sale than I do a hard-copy sale, so I'd rather push for a bigger growth in the e-book department.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:00 pm (UTC)
Reading over my comment, I'm finding myself laughing at myself. From my writer's stand point I have now, the amount of money charged for one book versus the time and headache it takes to write one doesn't even compare.

As a consumer I went for the cheapest price. As a creator of the product I'm wishing the consumers would pay way more than they do. lol

Edited at 2011-02-23 08:01 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:04 pm (UTC)
Jon, off-topic. Everytime I visit your blog, I get Sting's "Englishman in New York" stuck in my head. Thanks a friggin' lot! ;)
Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:22 pm (UTC)

I don't drink coffee, I take tea, my dear... :)
Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)
My local Borders is closing, and it saddens me. I do buy many books through Amazon, but Borders was nice because they emailed me excellent coupons (30-50% a book) on a regular basis and carried new releases I wanted right away. We do have Barnes & Noble store even closer than Borders, but their coupons are piddly in comparison (10%), so Amazon is almost always cheaper.

I was much more worried about the mall Borders in my hometown in California. There's not another bookstore within 30 minutes of the city, so that loss would have been quite a blow. All of the old used books stores have closed, too. I am very glad that Borders will stay open, for now.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
As I recall, Barnes & Noble charge you for their discount card, which always bugged me.
(no subject) - celestialgldfsh - Feb. 23rd, 2011 09:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC)
Our closest local bookstore is a Borders, and it's one of the ones slated to close. As I mentioned in my LJ entry on that, there's only one bookstore that sells new books in half of the county, and it's a Waldenbooks. All of the other bookstores are either on the East Side of town or are out in the exurbs, close to the gated communities.

At the same time, Borders did themselves in by making a series of boneheaded mistakes. They took on more debt just to perform a stock buyback; they alienated book buyers by having up to half of the stores taken up with music/video/games; they decided to eliminate a lot of the books on the genre shelves and focus on a few big names. By comparison, B&N has no debt.

What hurts to me is that our local big independent, Joseph-Beth, went into bankruptcy and closed stores in Cleveland and other places just to survive. I love going to that place, because you not only have good selection, but you have knowledgeable staff who pretty much live for books.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 08:40 pm (UTC)
One day, someone will have the sense to allow public libraries to sell new books (and find a way to ensure there's no outside pressure about which books they stock or order).
(no subject) - mtlawson - Feb. 23rd, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 23rd, 2011 09:19 pm (UTC)
It's not so much competition from one company, I think, as the total shift in the way folks buy things. I'm not one of those who predicts the end of printed books, but I do believe that twenty years from now, bookstores as we know them won't look anything like they do today.
(no subject) - rowyn - Feb. 23rd, 2011 10:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 23rd, 2011 09:55 pm (UTC)
I'm finding that the big bookstores only cater to specific books. I don't care for the YA-paranormal-impossible-romance-with-anst-ridden-charcters theme, or sword/scorcery/end-of the universe-unless-they-go-on-a-quest story. I like dark, and I have yet to find anything I like, so this doesn't bother me at all.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 10:56 pm (UTC)
It's a shame when any business goes under, but I really think the days of the big book store are numbered.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
I have such mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I've been angry with Borders and the other mega-bookstores for destroying all of my favorite independent bookstores. On the other hand, I've had some wonderful times at Borders. As a starving grad student, one of my favorite things to do on the weekend is head to Borders, buy a cup of tea, and browse the bookshelves for a couple of hours.

My town had 3 major bookstores: 2 Borders locations, and 1 Barnes and Noble. 1 of the Borders stores, along with BN, have closed in the past couple of months, and it really does make me sad. If the 2nd Borders location closes, I don't quite know what I'll do.
Feb. 23rd, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC)
On the other hand, I've had some wonderful times at Borders.

I know what you mean, but I can't see them staying open if they don't make some dramatic changes.
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