Things that inspire me to simply say...WTF??
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JANUARY 4, 2011 7:41AM

On a World Without Borders

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        ~photo courtesy of

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.

However, not always for the better.
          ~video courtesy of YouTube

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It is sad, but to be expected. Bookstores that don't change their business model to adapt to the customer, are going to be left in the dust. That is just a fact. Sad, but true. R
Very well put. The velocity of the change is what is alarming.
It's a sad but true commentary, you have written here. I wonder if they started to allow fast food places to set up shop in bookstores, if bookstores would suddenly thrive again? The only caveat would be that people would have to purchase a book before being allowed to put that crap down their gullets. Excellent post.
contest: if Borders developed a hand-reading device, what would it be called? Beyond Borders!!

stop the advance of the 451s
Bringing down the price for a book would help.
The last time I went into a Borders, the first thought that came to my mind was how expensive all of the books were. I asked if they had a discount card, and they said no, they didn't. All I could think to myself was this was a store that was doomed to go out of business sooner rather than later. Barnes & Noble is struggling against Amazon's prices, but it is barely making it, mainly because it released its own bookreader (the Nook) and that it has its own discount card. The reason it will eventually go the way of Borders is that their discount card is not enough of a discount, and their book prices for the Nook are outrageously overpriced (except for the few brand new releases that compete at the same price as Kindle books).
I've been a library denizen in much of my life.
I wonder what the future holds for libraries.
Speaking of borders, the view from the east end of the bridge, looking down into the ballpark during a night game is one of the neater scenes along the ILL/IA border
I feel exactly the same. I have found many of my most treasured books while browsing the shelves of a great bookstore. Borders used to be one of the best. I find my best browsing now at niche and used bookstores. We have a combination Mystery and Sci-Fi store here that is always crowded and seems to be doing well. I enjoyed reading this post, a well deserved EP
forgot: rated with love
brilliant for title alone :) r.
I have already been wondering about the looming demise of Used Book stores in the face of e books. I usually visit at least one when I go to a new city, and am more likely to make larger purchases there than at Borders. We still go to Borders too, but it's hard to get excited about spending 16 or 20 dollars on a soft cover book. They are pretty and all, but I most likely spend money there when I have a coupon from them and/or the book is marked down. I read a lot of books, and I can't afford to stay stocked from there.
@cartouche -- "It is sad, but to be expected. Bookstores that don't change their business model to adapt to the customer, are going to be left in the dust. That is just a fact. "

Funny, that's what Borders said when they began to put the independents out of business...

Now, a taste of their own medicine.

Very sad altogether. I don't also wonder if people are not losing the taste for reading anything longer than a sound bite or blog post...
It's very sad. I doubt they will last long, and that will be a huge blow for books: to lose so many sites for people to browse and discover and find them.

They have been slow in so many areas, trailing way behind BN, for example in online selling and then the Nook.

(Those are two huge areas. is way behind Amazon, but at least a player online. is irrelevant.)

I hope BN can avoid some of these mistakes, and the onslaught of the ebook, and stay relevant, stay around.
Just remember, someday iPads will be obsolete and another form of reading will take its place. But we will always have writers and readers.
I could never easily find what I was looking for at Borders. I received a gift card recently that I hurried to use, knowing they will be out of business soon. My online experience was far below mediocre, and I will be amazed if I eventually receive the shipment, which is long overdue. I am not surprised at their demise.

All of that said, I am sorry to see so many bookstores going out of business; like libraries, they often serve as community gathering places. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years.
I appreciate your attachment to Border's, but they put a lot of little guys out of business. That was sad! xox
Borders does send out coupons an awful lot. That could be construed as a flailing attempt to draw in customers....
So it really is all over the place. I had suspected as much. The Borders nearest my house is already just a few days from closing altogether (anyone need some ugly book shelves?). Now the one nearest the campus where I work is in the same process of clearing out. I go over to Caltech Thursday this week. I wonder if the one on Lake is also doomed. This sucks. I am a techie through and through, but the last few years I am just amazed at how much people are willing to shell out and how much time they want to spend on electronic gadgets. Fook the Nook, and all the other e-readers.
My favorite bookseller for many years was an old three storey ramshackle place in a disreputable part of the city. It smelled of dust and torn magazines gone bad. They had one or two anemic employees, and an older (to me, I was in my mid-forties) yet energetic owner who zoomed around the place restacking columns of paperbacks with the covers torn off--no doubt their biggest sellers. I always passed the front counter--buried under new (or old) entries into the inventory--and headed to the back staircase which led up dozens of wildly creaking stairs, sagging in the middle, to the top floor. That's where they kept Literature, History, Natural Science, and Misc. This last was always abbreviated thusly. They had no comfortable leather chairs, but there were two aging armchairs with the stuffing half torn out shoved against a back window which overlooked an alley far below where cats came to piss and trash collectors evidently came to discard their leftovers. I spent many hours there by the hissing, too-hot radiator, immersed in some forgotten tome...

And they tore that place down years ago to put up condos for snotty yuppies who probably read Jonathan Franzen and other inadequate, effete shit. Now, do you still miss Borders?

its interesting you dont compare Borders to Barnes and Nobel at all. B&N is sort of the starbucks of the book world and will probably be around for ages. however, I agree with you that the atmosphere/layout of Borders is more cozy/friendly typically. its an oasis in the desert. yeah I would be really disappointed if it disappears. but yeah ebooks are a stunning phenomenon and they are likely to have a massive effect on retail in the next half decade. they're even chging the publishing biz fundamentally... hang on for the ride.....