~photo courtesy of digitaltrends.com
The hours I have spent in our local Borders Bookstore defies measure. On one rainy Saturday afternoon, I walked into this Mecca of books, magazines, and music just shortly after noon, only to leave in time to make myself a lovely dinner, open a wonderful bottle of merlot and relax on the sofa with John Grisham's newest novel.
When I was working in retail, I had the joy of a weekday off. A morning cup of coffee coupled with a fine book of poetry at Borders restored my faith in life, humanity and myself. Not to mention those impromptu conversations with the most amazing people.
However, for booksellers, these have been hard times. So, I was not surprised to read in the New York Times that Borders Booksellers began to show signs of the kind of unsteadiness that leads one to believe its days are numbered.
According to Julie Bosman, a writer for the Times, Borders is on the precipice. Through hastily called meetings with book publishers, Borders execs were communicating with major publishers that payments are going to have be delayed. As quoted in the article, Mary Davis, spokeswoman for Borders, stated, "We're commited to working with our vendors as a part of our overall effort to refinance."
In the words of one iconic Professor Harold Hill, "We got trouble, my friend."
To make matters worse, it was also reported that two top Borders' executives had resigned. Monday. Can anyone say "Sinking Ship?"
It seems that Borders has been losing money for years. And with the holiday season now behind us, the fact that the company has yet to post holiday sales numbers seems ominous.
Ms. Bosman quotes Peter Wahlstrom, an analyst for Morningstar as saying, "Book sales have been either flat or down in the last several years. It's difficult evironment over all."
Looking back, I should have known something was up. For instance, in the Borders that graces my hometown, soft and comfy leather chairs were replaced by guady looking card displays. The music section shrank substantially.
Yet, still on a weekend, a trip to Borders for coffee, reading, browsing and conversing is like a trip to an oasis. An oasis filled with the waters of books with real covers, people with something to share and hours of simply browsing through the thousands of books that I will never get to read, though at least I would have the opportunity to turn their pages in order that I may catch a glimpse of a writer's words.
According to some, we are to chalk it up to the coming of the digital age.
As we Americans become even more individualized with our digital choices, as we move from a world of community to one of personalized entertainment, bookstores are bearing the brunt of a more personalized age.
First, it was the small, independent bookstores. Now, even the chains are feeling the effects of an age hooked on powering up a hand-held device, rather than hearing the sound of pages being turned.
According to the NY Times article, Barnes and Noble, which rolled out the Nook, experienced a robust holiday season.
I am saddened by the prospect that one day, I will get in my car, drive to Borders, only to find an empty building.
But, then, that's the way it is. Things change.