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Borders liquidating remaning stores
July 18, 2011 2:21 PM   Subscribe


 
When they shut down ALL of the stores in Austin, the most literate city in Texas (insert your texas jokes here) I figured Borders wasn't long for this world.
posted by nushustu at 2:23 PM on July 18, 2011


A sad day. It's hard not to compare it to the loss of music stores, but the history of reading and books and bookstores is vastly different from the history of listening and music and music stores. I believe books and ebooks can coexist for a long, long time, but eventually, most of our books will be ebooks.
posted by mattbucher at 2:24 PM on July 18, 2011


There's so few bookstores in Chicago now that Borders is gone (we have one location left), other than speciality & used.
posted by Windigo at 2:26 PM on July 18, 2011


mattbucher, I agree. I remember over a decade ago hanging out in a Blockbuster Music, where they'd allow you to open pretty much any cd and listen to it in the store. Now the idea of such a thing is absurd. Bookstores are basically the written-word version of Blockbuster Music. There might always be places to go get books, but more and more I would expect it to just be local niche places that survive.
posted by nushustu at 2:27 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


"liquidation is expected to commence for some stores and facilities as soon as Friday, July 22, with a phased rollout of the program which is expected to conclude by the end of September."
posted by stbalbach at 2:27 PM on July 18, 2011


When they shut down ALL of the stores in Austin, the most literate city in Texas (insert your texas jokes here) I figured Borders wasn't long for this world.

Borders was in trouble the moment they used Amazon as their e-commerce platform, which was about three-four years ago. When you're using your primary competitor to sell your products for you, you're in trouble.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:28 PM on July 18, 2011 [40 favorites]


This isn't a sad day, these store swooped in and pushed out all the mom and pop bookstores. Now that there's a slightly longer-than-expected economic downturn they throw in the towel and leave this huge vacuum. Good riddance, bring back mom and pop.
posted by splatta at 2:28 PM on July 18, 2011 [138 favorites]


.


God, I really hope independent and used bookstores are managing to stay afloat, at least. One of them in my town closed last year, so I think they're struggling too. The best bookstores I know are sacred places. I hope my kids and grandkids can experience them.
posted by naju at 2:29 PM on July 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


Weren't we just mourning the loss of the Mom & Pop Bookstore a few months ago? I'm having trouble switching from thinking of Border's as the corporate behemoth crushing the little guys to thinking of them as the victim.

On preview, yeah, what splatta said.
posted by fartknocker at 2:29 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now living in a city home to the largest independent bookstore in the world, I can get pretty down on chain bookstores. But for my parents in Iowa, Borders is really the only actual bookstore accessible - like now you won't even be able to go to a place and actually hold or see a book for sale.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:30 PM on July 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Seems like a good time to link to this ; I raided the local book shop's bargain section for the biggest, most boring-looking hardcovers a couple of times for this purpose.
posted by Hoopo at 2:31 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is such a shame, because there is certainly room in the marketplace for bookstores. I mean, every time I was there, there was always tons of people in there and buying things.

But it seems like this failure is all about management mistakes, not market failures.

Borders was in trouble the moment they used Amazon as their e-commerce platform, which was about three-four years ago. When you're using your primary competitor to sell your products for you, you're in trouble.

It certainly isn't a good sign. On the other hand, further partnering with Amazon might have been a better idea. Be the "catalog showroom" for Amazon.

This isn't a sad day, these store swooped in and pushed out all the mom and pop bookstores. Now that there's a slightly longer-than-expected economic downturn they throw in the towel and leave this huge vacuum. Good riddance, bring back mom and pop.

I'm not sure how, because Border's prices were always premium.
posted by gjc at 2:32 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hopefully, ebooks are the much-needed controlled burn that'll destroy the overgrown corporate bookstores, letting the little niche indie booksellers to sprout new saplings.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:32 PM on July 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


I got a $20 book for $4 on Amazon. Hurray for progress!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:32 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mom and pop bookstores were getting screwed sideways and from every other direction for quite a while. I don't think you can blame it on borders. The bookstores that survive are ones that specialize in a particular area (i.e. we have every mystery book known to mankind) or used bookstores (which appear to be a way to go broke slower than usual).

It's also worth noting that the small bookstores never have what I'm looking for (but they always have something I want). If I have no idea what I'm looking for then I'll go mom and pop. If I want a particular book I'll go the the big box bookstore.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:33 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was a manager at Morgenstern's Bookstore in Bloomington, Indiana, in the mid-1990's. Lovely place, wooden shelves and lots of soft chairs. We learned firsthand that Borders would check their demographics and then move in to crush the local independents when they opened three doors down from us.

I also worked at Bookseller's Row used books in Chicago in the mid-80's. Favorite bookstore ever, gems I never knew of (a book of Jewish Ethical Wills). They later expanded to three stores, all gone now.

I will miss the feel of paper in my hands as I browse with the page backlit.
posted by dragonsi55 at 2:34 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Guess I'll never spend that $10 Borders gift card I got for Christmas.
posted by clockworkjoe at 2:34 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


10,000 jobs lost = not too big to fail?
posted by mattbucher at 2:36 PM on July 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


The bookstores that survive are ones that specialize in a particular area (i.e. we have every mystery book known to mankind) or used bookstores (which appear to be a way to go broke slower than usual).

This would be a good point except that it is entirely wrong. I know of two superb independent bookstores within ten minutes of my house and neither is a specialty store or a used bookstore. I grant that specialty stores may have a better chance of hanging on, but to say that no other type can is manifestly incorrect.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:38 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


It was all those damn coffee bars and expensive copies of Great Expectations


.
posted by clavdivs at 2:39 PM on July 18, 2011


As long as Half Price books sticks around, I'll be ok. Most of my purchases are new e-books, but every once in a while I feel the need for old dirty paperbacks, and for that Half-Price usually has me covered.

Plus, and this might just be me being lucky with my local shop-owners, the people who work in the little used shops tend to be frighteningly knowledgeable about the weird arcana contained within their shelves and can almost always direct me to some bizarrely odd thing I didn't even know I was looking for.
posted by quin at 2:39 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


The best bookstores I know are sacred places. I hope my kids and grandkids can experience them.

A proper bookstore is a delight to be in. I would pay to avoid going to Chapters, and I assume Borders is the same.

I'm not terribly concerned about new bookstores, but the idea of used bookstores vanishing one by one chokes me up. Libraries closing would be even worse. It really is just nostalgia, and my theoretical grand children may not understand at all, but to me it's meaningful.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:39 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sad. Out of Borders and B&N, I've always preferred Borders.
posted by gyc at 2:39 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


If I want a particular book I'll go the the big box bookstore.

You must want very different books from me.
posted by RogerB at 2:40 PM on July 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Let's not overreact we've still got B&N and Books-a-Million, which have essentially the same items, at essentially the same prices, as Borders.
posted by oddman at 2:40 PM on July 18, 2011


Let's not overreact we've still got B&N and Books-a-Million, which have essentially the same items, at essentially the same prices, as Borders.

...which ought to be their undoing, surely?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:41 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Australia, we've lost both Borders and another massive local retailer, Angus and Robertson, in recent months. Didn't shed a tear. I've been reading much, much more now that I can get a book on my Kindle app for $4.99, when Angus and Robertson would have charged me at least $34.99. No contest.

If I want a comfy chair to read on and a coffee, I'll sit in my living room. If I want the freedom to browse and explore and access expert book-lover knowledge, I'll go the the library.
posted by Jimbob at 2:41 PM on July 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


gyc: "Sad. Out of Borders and B&N, I've always preferred Borders."

As a teenager I was the opposite since B&N stocked 2600 and Borders didn't at the time.
posted by wcfields at 2:42 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm a pretty fervent supporter of local independent bookstores. Borders closing is a good thing. People will still want books, and now the hand of the market will give be giving more cards to those wiling to open a local bookstore.

I have seen local bookstores crush Borders, in terms of sales-to-size ratio, up and down the west coast. It easily can be done, and it mostly is an issue of educating consumers as to the (often times cheaper) availability of books at the mom & pop.

It's also worth noting that the small bookstores never have what I'm looking for (but they always have something I want). If I have no idea what I'm looking for then I'll go mom and pop. If I want a particular book I'll go the the big box bookstore.

No offense, but I have never found that to be the case. Every, literally, every book I have ever wanted I was able to find in a local bookstore.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 2:42 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Livres Sans Frontières
posted by b1tr0t at 2:44 PM on July 18, 2011 [30 favorites]


We used to have an awesome used bookstore in downtown San Rafael. It was called Mandrake. It was huge and it had that old book smell and in the back behind the stacks and stacks of books for sale were boxes of newly arrived books with a sign over them that read "VERBOTTEN!". Loved that place. Although they closed right about the time Borders opened, I think they were probably headed that way regardless, not just because of Borders.
posted by fartknocker at 2:45 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]



No offense, but I have never found that to be the case. Every, literally, every book I have ever wanted I was able to find in a local bookstore.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 2:42 PM on July 18 [+] [!]


I'd agree with the original sentiment if it was about used book stores. They often have gaps. But that's okay, the unexpected finds and the great prices and the wealth of old books usually makes up for it.

But yes: most new book stores, big or small, order from catalogs and know enough to keep the big names in whatever their genre of choice is.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:46 PM on July 18, 2011


A great comment from the thread on Borders declaring bankruptcy. "I loved that job. ... I was surrounded by books all day long, and everyone else there loved books, and until Borders came along, none of us had ever seen a bookstore that size with that kind of selection."
posted by John Cohen at 2:46 PM on July 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


What also destroyed them was their attempt to branch out and sell toys, CDs and DVDs at full cost when those are also available much cheaper on the internet, especially when used, not to even mention trying to compete with Netflix type services.
posted by Renoroc at 2:48 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I haven't bought many books at Borders in the last year, but I'm really going to miss their magazine selection. Most of my favorite magazines were discovered via browsing the magazine racks at Borders and Tower.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 2:50 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Goliath Books.
posted by Jimbob at 2:51 PM on July 18, 2011


> Good riddance, bring back mom and pop.

The economics of bookstores are brutal, though, no?

Assuming that's the case, don't expect mom and pop stores to start popping up; they're less likely to survive than something like Borders.

And obviously, the migration of readers to the Web compounds this; as people grow more accustomed to reading things online, there will be increasingly little market support for bookstores generally.
posted by darth_tedious at 2:52 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Finally, an answer to people who come to my library and say 'What do we need a library for when we have Borders?'
posted by box at 2:52 PM on July 18, 2011 [37 favorites]


What also destroyed them was their attempt to branch out and sell toys, CDs and DVDs at full cost when those are also available much cheaper on the internet, especially when used, not to even mention trying to compete with Netflix type services.

That is interesting: in Canada the equivalent to Borders or Barnes and Noble would be Chapters/Indigo which places such an emphasis on the selling of tchotchkes (vases, clocks, mugs, bookends) that they are converting some of their smaller mall stores into "Indigo Spirit" stores, which will not even bother with books at all: just dishtowels and bookends and whatnot.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:52 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, the Borders at the West Farms Mall. Where I got my first Star Wars Expanded Universe novel, bought my first CD, stole my first porn magazine, and found refuge from the ridiculousness that is the American malls while my mom and sister shopped for clothes. You weren't perfect, but you'll be missed.

.
posted by Jon_Evil at 2:52 PM on July 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've been buying online for years, but after I made a program to make that even easier for me, I have not set foot inside a bookstore since.

I exclaim in surprise and nostalgic delight whenever I still see a CD store. I expect I will eventually feel the same way towards (new) book stores.

I still like dedicated magazine stores, though. I'm not reading a Kindle on the toilet.
posted by Theta States at 2:53 PM on July 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


As much as the former indie hippy in me always felt I should be anti-Borders, at least in Chicago, I always found those who worked there to be friendly, knowledgeable, and a comfortable place to be -- whereas many independent bookstores in the same place replaced friendly with snooty, knowledgeable with snotty, and comfortable with trying to get you to move through their store and not all that friendly of a place to browse.

As much as I know it's a corporation who only cares about its bottom line, I'm incredibly bummed for the 11,000 newly unemployed, many of whom probably loved the job just because it was a bookstore.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:53 PM on July 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


Chicago still has Unabridged, Women & Children first and the indie near U Chicago.

IA has Prairie Lights, Book Vault, River Lights and an indie in Des Moines.
posted by brujita at 2:53 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


They were in Rochester long before Barnes and Noble. I guess being next to the Circuit City store was a bad omen.
posted by tommasz at 2:54 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Riffing on Slack-a-gogo, I think I lost all illusions about retail after the death of Tower. I loved Tower Records so much as a kid, and when they went under, I sort of stopped caring about stores (which sounds ridiculous, but maybe you get where I'm coming from). My heart turned to stone and I never again could let myself care about a store again. Sob.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:54 PM on July 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


Books-A-Million is evil. They have NO science section*, a wall full of bonnet rippers and even more Left Behind-esque Christian fiction. It is not a book store, it is a lifestyle accessories outlet.**

* Seriously, I asked.

** This location is in Rocky River OH. Your store may vary (I certainly hope so.)
posted by ltracey at 2:55 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Borders closing is a good thing.

I can name 11,000 people who disagree with you.
posted by girlmightlive at 2:56 PM on July 18, 2011 [25 favorites]


I live in Madison, Wisconsin, a bookish town. Our Borders, closed a few months back, had a great selection, knowledgable workers, and a better reading series than any of the (many) independent stores in town. My son and I went there all the time and I'm sorry to see it gone.
posted by escabeche at 2:56 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe if they made all those freeloaders sprawled out in the aisles PAY to read entire books this wouldn't have happened.
posted by Splunge at 2:56 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I put 7 years into Borders, and when they laid me off and immediately offered to re-hire at a slightly higher position I had to say no. Ten years of nothing more than bad management decisions stacked on bad management decisions brought this company down. They kept hiring people at the top who had zero interest in selling people books.

When the selection was great, Borders was a top-notch bookstore and I was proud to say I had or could get a customer just about any book they wanted. Then somehow it was determined that having 800 copies of whatever new mystery brick was coming out that Tuesday was the best way to serve the most customers, and the ones who wanted something else could hang. 250 copies of the American Idol winner's schlockfest clogging the music aisles sold CDs (but only if they were placed directly underneath huge posters with shiny T&A all over 'em). They basically forced their customer base into the arms of Amazon.

I'm sorry Ann Arbor, you started something cool, but in the end it's good riddance.
posted by carsonb at 2:56 PM on July 18, 2011 [20 favorites]


If 11,000 people are newly out of work and you're happy about it because you hate a store, your sense of entitlement has gone just about far enough. It's not about you. It's about 11,000 people being out of work. It is not about you.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:58 PM on July 18, 2011 [36 favorites]


Every, literally, every book I have ever wanted I was able to find in a local bookstore.

I've commonly had problems trying to get SF from local/indy bookstores. Like, worse than a mall Waldenbooks or even literally nothing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:59 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: I'm not reading a Kindle on the toilet.
posted by benzenedream at 3:00 PM on July 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Aww, man, Border's is a hometown chain for me, and I'll miss them. My brother worked at the headquarters for years, and I've still got stacks of books and CDs that I haven't gotten around to that he gave me for free.

Hopefully, something decent replaces them in that big block they have in downtown Ann Arbor.

(And yeah, management mistakes is pretty much the best way to sum Borders going bust. After the K-Mart buy-out, almost all of the original folks split. And their trouble with online marketing was just too much to overcome.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:00 PM on July 18, 2011


With Borders closing there are now less than twenty places near my house to buy calendars for 70% off.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 3:01 PM on July 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


Well, there goes my cheap-date option of choice.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:03 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Coming from a small town where the only local bookstore options were the used one that carried mostly romance paperbacks and the mall bookstore that specialized in fancy bibles with a few of the newer hardcovers, I'm so envious of some of your mom & pop bookstore stories. Sure we had a library, but a small south GA town isn't going to have spectacular library funding. It wasn't until I saw one of the Borders or B&N stores on a out of town trip that I realized just how many books there were out there. It was kind of magical in a cheesy sort of way.
posted by bizzyb at 3:04 PM on July 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


GOOD!

One day some time ago I got a book I wanted via Amazon online. that day, my daughter asked me if we could go a local mall and stop at at Borders. While she was browsing, I spotted the book I had just got and it was some 12 dollars (plus tax) more than what I had just paid. Now imagine that book via Kindle!

the world changes. Borders became like A&P, the local hardware store, the small business store:
fun, sometimes helpful, but out of date and often stock...the more things change, the more they alter. I no longer use my typewriter either.
posted by Postroad at 3:04 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's cute that there are people who think that without Borders, now mom n' pop shops are going to pop up everywhere to fill the gaps.
posted by Windigo at 3:04 PM on July 18, 2011 [45 favorites]


Growing up in the Detroit area in the 1980s, Borders was my mom-and-pop store. And whatever they may have become, when I think about Borders I think about location #2 on Southfield Road, where a little bookworm could get lost in the aisles for hours, exasperating her mother with endless requests. It might not have been as big as the current big-box model, but it was vast compared to other bookstores at the time.

All things must pass, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I love my Kindle. But my inner nine-year-old is sad to hear about her wonderland going away.
posted by Meghamora at 3:05 PM on July 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Books-A-Million is evil. They have NO science section*, a wall full of bonnet rippers and even more Left Behind-esque Christian fiction. It is not a book store, it is a lifestyle accessories outlet.**

I'm posting this from a BAM. My experience with the store is, they do have a science section, and in Brunswick, GA to boot. I picked my copy of Martin Gardner's "Collosal Book of Mathematics" there. And the best book on Python I've ever read. So there's that.

However, they have an entire aisle devoted to Christian stuff, Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter stuff tends to find prominent placement at the front of the store, and the science magazines are lumped in with New Age stuff on fairies and crystals. And to use their Wi-Fi you have to have a discount card with them or pay an exorbitant daily rate, which only lets you connect with one device at a time. So, eh, mixed opinion.

We went to a Boarders a month and a half ago looking for bargains. Pretty slim pickings.
posted by JHarris at 3:05 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chicago still has Unabridged, Women & Children first and the indie near U Chicago.

Also Myopic, which employs at least one MeFite of my acquaintance.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:11 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah I'd love to see these mythical mom-and-pop shops stay open for longer than an hour without a full supply of bodice rippers and Dan Brown-knockoffs.

If you consider yourself to have, ahem, refined taste, you're not the one keeping mom and pop open.
posted by griphus at 3:11 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Austin is well-supplied with bookstores - a fabulous big-box indy for your new material, and six or seven Half Price Books in and around the city, not to mention various tiny used bookstores and a couple of Barnes and Nobles on the outskirts. The loss of Borders won't make a dent in anyone's habits.

Which is the point, I guess. I worked for Borders Inc (Waldenbooks - the mall chain) when I was a lot younger, and I bear them no ill-will, but I will happily go out of my way to check out an indy and, with my habits, most of my book purchases have to be used anyway.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:15 PM on July 18, 2011


In reading through this thread, as well as thinking about my own experiences, I can recall many Borders locations being great. The aforementioned Madison one? Yes. The Oak Park, IL store? Absolutely. Oak Brook, IL? Yes.

But the amount of actual stuff I bought at these locations - minus drinks and snacks in the cafe - was on the downslope for years. Borders couldn't compete on price, so Amazon won in that department (and even waiting 2 days could be worth it).

Really, Borders is almost what a library system should be (minus the, you know, commerce part). Lounge, cafe, explore books, author talks, high-traffic locations.
posted by hijinx at 3:15 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Borders, for me, was always better than B&N. The selection was better, certainly deeper in my fields of interest, and the indescribable "vibe" was better. B&N was corporate, Borders was very large college-town bookstore (as I think it started).

Will mom'n'pop bookstores fill the void? Well, here in D.C., one of the best-educated, highest-income metro regions in the country (oh, and the capital of the Free World), we currently have, excluding a few small niche bookstores, two independent bookstores, two B&Ns and one decent used bookstore. That's it. From having an indie chain; specialty sci-fi, mystery, travel and foreign language bookstores; and a half-dozen used bookstores, all of which shuttered, one by one, over the last 10, 15 years

I don't know how much of this can be placed at the feet of e-books and Amazon.com. And I don't think anyone will be reopening the shuttered stores.
posted by the sobsister at 3:15 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Less competition for the locally-owned stores in my area, which seem to be holding their own. Barnes and Noble can take a hike, also, as far as I care.
posted by Danf at 3:16 PM on July 18, 2011


ltracey: "Books-A-Million is evil. They have NO science section*, a wall full of bonnet rippers and even more Left Behind-esque Christian fiction. It is not a book store, it is a lifestyle accessories outlet.**"

I tend to think that individual stores stock what sells to their communities. I've picked up some great books on science (and a few literary classics) in Books-A-Million.

I worry about one of my favorite stores on Long Island, Book Revue. They buy and sell used books, and have an incredible selection.
posted by zarq at 3:17 PM on July 18, 2011


Oh, sorry, you were listing not-used bookstores? I've been to unabridged, but it's hard to say what could induce me to pay cover price these days...
posted by adamdschneider at 3:19 PM on July 18, 2011


The economics of bookstores are brutal, though, no?

Assuming that's the case, don't expect mom and pop stores to start popping up; they're less likely to survive than something like Borders.

And obviously, the migration of readers to the Web compounds this; as people grow more accustomed to reading things online, there will be increasingly little market support for bookstores generally.


this is why I think that the future of bookselling is going to be Amazon and indie stores. or rather, the bit that I bolded: the market for physical books will become too small (or is already too small) to sustain chains of big-box stores, but just enough to keep a decent number of indies afloat.

it's just that it's going to be pretty rough going getting to that point.


This would be a good point except that it is entirely wrong. I know of two superb independent bookstores within ten minutes of my house and neither is a specialty store or a used bookstore. I grant that specialty stores may have a better chance of hanging on, but to say that no other type can is manifestly incorrect.

every general-interest independent bookstore I've ever been to has had a distinct personality. it comes from a combination of the owner's tastes and the tastes of the neighbourhood. in a sense, a good indie bookstore specialises in being itself; and it is that kind of specialisation that makes an indie bookstore good.
posted by spindle at 3:20 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dying bookstores are truly depressing to me and it's that feeling that makes me sad Borders is going. The Michigan Ave store in Chicago went last winter, taking its bizarrely good selection of math books with it. Going in there to check what was left was the saddest I'd felt about a place since going in Cody's as it was being emptied for the move to Fourth Street. (I don't know if that was more or less depressing than the last time I went in Cody's, a few months before its demise, on on Shattuck to find the once glorious math section on Telegraph had been reduced to SAT prep books!)
posted by hoyland at 3:20 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good riddance, bring back mom and pop.

The borders in Chautauqua Mall is closing. My parents closed there bookstore in Jamestown NY in 1994 when that borders was a waldenbooks. It would be nice to bring back 'mom and pop' but there's a lower profit margin now than there was then.

The new "successful" (? I have a feeling they run in the red, but maybe not) stores in big cities, seem to operate more like coffee shops that sell books than traditional bookstores.

The bread and butter nytimes bestsellers can be gotten just about anywhere. Amazon is selling more ebooks than paper books, etc.

I don't fear the loss of bookstores anymore than I fear the loss of landline telephone stores. I'm more concerned with what's next after the service economy? There was supposed to be an information based economy (where most of us probably make our wages), but ... but ... what else?

Also, as per going out of business sales, that's the way they go. First/last time customers in for a good deal.
posted by nutate at 3:21 PM on July 18, 2011


And soon only Powells in Portland will remain like the Irish monks carrying the embers of civilization through a new dark age.
posted by humanfont at 3:23 PM on July 18, 2011 [34 favorites]


I know it's fashionable to hate on Borders for being a big mean corporate behemoth. But we're talking about a lot of bookstores, which are closing. I have trouble feeling joy about that, regardless of the name that was on the door.

In a country where 58% of adults never read another book after high school, anything that reduces the number of places where people can get books is a bad thing if you ask me.
posted by ErikaB at 3:26 PM on July 18, 2011 [25 favorites]


A few established mom and pop book stores in vibrant communities will fill the Borders void and see a small increase in business. Hopefully they'll be able to engage these new patrons that until recently neglected to visit their store in favor of a well stocked chain. To keep these new customers returning they'll have to fine tune their approach a bit, but I hope they don't lose their character and charm trying to be a new Borders. Sadly, I don't think and new mom and pops will open to fill the Borders void.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 3:26 PM on July 18, 2011


I have no sadness for the loss of Borders. Amazon only replaces the utility of the big-name, frankly annoying bookstores with generic selections and staff. It saves time and money and doesn't effect the independent bookstores any more than Borders and its ilk already have been. Those that have found a business model that keeps them afloat will keep on keepin on, with less competition in town for those who want a bookstore to walk into to browse. Those who know what they want will go to Amazon, and those who don't will go to the mom and pop shop. I say it's for the better!
posted by unknownmosquito at 3:27 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


58% of adults never read another book after high school

These people terrify me and I shun them they're like crazed religious fundies.
posted by elizardbits at 3:30 PM on July 18, 2011 [20 favorites]


Man, do I not share the priors being expressed in this thread. Grateful to the eBook for freeing up so much inefficiently-used labor, paper, and real estate -- just like Borders itself accomplished when it displaced archaic and inefficient small bookstores. Sure, there'll be an immediate wrench of displacement, but that's how the world improves. Out with the old.
posted by foursentences at 3:30 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Borders was in trouble the moment they used Amazon as their e-commerce platform, which was about three-four years ago. When you're using your primary competitor to sell your products for you, you're in trouble.

You've got that backwards; They affiliated with Amazon back in 1999-2000, and severed the relationship somewhere around 08-09.

I have acquaintances who used to work for the mothership store in downtown Ann Arbor, as well as in corporate HQ. Past tense long before this year dawned; they'd gone their own ways long ago. The scuttlebutt, put simply, is that Borders wrote their doom small, but many times over: The overexpansion of the chain, the administrative not-getting-it-ness regarding the Internet, the depersonalization, delocalization, and general dumbing-down of stores... as well as various harder-to-describe managerial and executive mistakes.

The last time I was in the mothership store was the week before Christmas. It used to have a foreign language books section, massive independent artists music section, all kinds of specialized books for people who liked exercising their forebrains. This time, about a quarter of the upper floor was given over to colorful stationery and, for who knows what reason, artificial Christmas trees for sale, two or three sizes available, in white, silver, black, and shocking pink. The books inventory, which always distinguished it from any other chain store, including Borders franchises, was now as banal as anywhere else -- but sprawling across two or three times the space of the average Borders franchise.

It was so depressing I couldn't bring myself to buy a memento mori of the visit.
posted by ardgedee at 3:31 PM on July 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


Good riddance, bring back mom and pop.

I was actually very happy when, years ago, Borders helped destroy my town's only large indie bookstore. It was unattractive, which I could live with, and disorganized, which was more of a problem, but the killer was that the staff was just insufferable. They survived by being the only game in town. I did not mourn their loss

I will note that the remaining B&N's locally now beat the remaining Borders in all three of those categories.

Nevertheless:

.
posted by tyllwin at 3:35 PM on July 18, 2011


Borders was in trouble the moment they used Amazon as their e-commerce platform, which was about three-four years ago.

Correction: 3-4 years ago was when we started doing our own site again. Borders.com orders were filled by Amazon starting in....like 2003 or 2004. It was a long embarrassing period, and yep, it was a huge misstep.

I worked for Borders for a little over 14 years, starting as a bookseller at one of the New Jersey stores and ending as a business analyst at the home office, a position I left a little over 6 months ago. For a long piece of that it was a fabulous company to work for, full of people who loved books, music and movies from top to bottom. A series of asshole executives from the grocery world put an end to that, and exacerbated the already terribly poor decision making that had been going on since the early oughts.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:36 PM on July 18, 2011 [26 favorites]


These people terrify me and I shun them they're like crazed religious fundies.

I wonder what percentage of crazed religious fundies never read a book after high school.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:36 PM on July 18, 2011


Yeah, in the UK we lost Borders last year. I was really excited to go to one when I came to London. I had been to a B+N in the States and thought it was the best thing ever - a bookstore big enough to have an actual Wicca section! Places you could drink coffee whilst leafing through Ms! English books with American covers! - and the reality never matched up to my nostalgic idea of American book superstores. However, it was one of the few places where I can get specialist magazines - I could hop off the tube in the morning and pick up the sewing magazine I read, plus have a look at the US and French publications and see if they had Bust on the shelves (they never did). I miss that now. WH Smith is the only proper magazine store now and they're usually dingy and overpriced.

I rarely buy brand new books so I have no recollection of their literary offerings, but everyone likes browsing. I think I once bought a photography book I couldn't afford for the purposes of an interview, but had to return it in order to buy food and such.
posted by mippy at 3:36 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Borders in my town closed a few months ago. I wandered through the closing sale, and books marked 30% off were still more expensive than Amazon.

I kind of wanted to buy a giant table - they were selling all the furniture - but somebody beat me to it.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:37 PM on July 18, 2011


Books-A-Million is evil.

This is absolutely 100% true.

I used to work with a guy whose wife was a buyer for BAM. After a couple of glass of wine she'd tell horror stories about how that place is run. They treat their employees like crap, their shelves bulge with crap, and they stay in business by selling crap.

They have a new thing they're trying here: a used bookstore that buys used books and resells them. They give you pennies on the trade-in, which is understandable, but their used books are priced outrageously. I checked Amazon on my phone while I was there -- I could get NEW books, shipped to me FREE, for basically the same price, or maybe just a dollar or two more.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:38 PM on July 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


In a country where 58% of adults never read another book after high school

Um...

Okay. How many margaritas will it take to wipe this from my memory? Cause I'm going to try and find out.
posted by notion at 3:40 PM on July 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


I might be wrong, but it seemed to me that big-box bookstores were ridiculously over-saturated in many communities with Borders and Barnes & Noble duking it out with the same products, same look, and almost the same coffee, usually within eyesight of each other, often right next to each other. It was almost as bad as Christopher Guest's joke about Starbucks (who were also forced to downsize in the recession). It's a recession and everything retail is struggling to reorganize.

I'm reminded of a quip by Ursula K. Le Guin in Changing Planes "The airport bookstore did not sell books, only bestsellers..."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:40 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Really, Borders is almost what a library system should be (minus the, you know, commerce part). Lounge, cafe, explore books, author talks, high-traffic locations.

Ironically, my local library has much of that, and the regional library system supports things like author talks. Though sometimes, author talks can be controversial around here.
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:41 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Austin is well-supplied with bookstores - a fabulous big-box indy for your new material, and six or seven Half Price Books in and around the city, not to mention various tiny used bookstores and a couple of Barnes and Nobles on the outskirts. The loss of Borders won't make a dent in anyone's habits.

Borders had already pulled out of Austin. I went through their store in Southpark Meadows (south side suburban mall from hell) while it was in going-out-of-business sale mode and the selection was abysmal. I know it's the suburbs and I'm a purple-haired People's Republic of Austin chick, but it seemed out of sync with the community. Plus the discounts in the going out of business sale weren't even that cheap.

We've had a B&N card since it was Bookstop (mine originally came from the now-gone Alabama Bookstop in Houston) but Bookpeople satisfies most of our needs so well that I think we're giving the card up after this year. The main thing we get at B&N any more is gift cards for the nephews and nieces and there's no discount on those.
posted by immlass at 3:41 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do booksellers in the US have to charge cover price for books, or do they set their own? We have the standard RRP on the back of books - Waterstones will sell books for this price (although they have a perennial 3 for 2 offer on), supermarkets will deep discount but mainly on best-sellers. (The used market here is mainly charity shops and the odd 'book exchange' here and there.)
posted by mippy at 3:42 PM on July 18, 2011


This may be generational, but I find profoundly depressing the blitheness with which comments are made to the effect of "out with the old, in with the new, e-books rule," as I can think of few pleasures greater (well, a few) than spending time in a proper bookstore and finding the unexpected—and, of course, suddenly essential—book. I feel exactly the same way about record stores. All the "If you like X, try Y" automatic online recommendations in the world can't begin to substitute for serendipity and good salespeople.

Love my iPad, appreciate its convenience, but it's not a book, and the bookness of a book is at least half the pleasure of the purchase.
posted by the sobsister at 3:42 PM on July 18, 2011 [18 favorites]


I don't usually have a stance on the ebooks vs paperbooks debate, but this morning as I was preparing to attend jury duty, I realized that all my reading materials were on electronic devices I wasn't allowed to bring into the courthouse (they all had cameras), so I had to scramble around and stuff some programming texts in my bag instead. Bah.
posted by ardgedee at 3:46 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


My Borders memories:

College, Ann Arbor Michigan, two decades ago. Borders is the cool big local bookstore, our own local equivalent of Powell's. It had been around for 20 years, started as a little business by two brothers when they were undergraduates. It was the kind of place that seemed to have everything, a wonderland for the serious reader, a place that was a joy to be in.

Flash forward, a few years later. Suddenly, Borders has been acquired by Kmart and is turning into a national chain. It's the talk of the town. Borders is our bookstore. Everyone is a little bit proud, and a little bit worried. The senior management of Borders mostly leaves, but nothing seems to have changed much. The stock is still the same. It's still a place where you can buy every book there is. Maybe it'll just be like that, only everywhere.

Flash forward, the mid-90's. An acquaintance of mine who manages a Borders testily explains to me that Borders employees don't *want* to have a union, they *prefer* being contract workers, and that's why Borders has to crush every attempt at unionization. I am ... dubious.

Flash forward, the early 2000's. A few moves around the country, and I am in Tucson, Arizona. My bookstore of choice is Antigone books, the independent, lesbian-friendly business down the street. But they have a relatively small stock, and sometimes they don't carry everything I want. When that happens, I often head over to Borders. At least they still have the stock.

Flash forward, the mid-2000's. I'm in Honolulu. For various reasons, it's a while since I've been in a Borders -- other bookstores were closer, mostly. But one day I walk into the one in Ward Center and ... something's wrong. I'm looking for a series, and they only have the third, most recent book, not the first or second. I'd seen that in a Barnes and Noble, but never a Borders. There's one tiny little section for Drama/Gay&Lesbian/African-American/Other, squashed together on the shelves. I wonder what Borders offers over any other chain bookstore now. I don't see any immediate answer.

Flash forward, late 2000's. My friend who manages a Borders (a different one) loses his job. He tells me Borders has been going under for years, and that this is the beginning of the end. Eventually, he gets a job managing a Kmart.

Flash forward, today. I read the news on metafilter that the end has arrived. It doesn't really affect me -- I'm not even in the U.S. anymore, and there aren't a lot of big box stores here. I mostly turn to Amazon for English language books, although sometimes I go into the local bookstores just because I like to browse around. There are lots of independent bookstores here, and they usually have at least a small English section.

But I wonder if that store in Ann Arbor still even exists now.

I really liked that bookstore.
posted by kyrademon at 3:49 PM on July 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


I wouldn't mind e-books completely replacing their analog counterparts. Having just moved to a new apartment, and nearly throwing my back out thanks to the weight of dead trees, I won't miss the heft of analog. A thousand books in a device that weighs 600 grams makes a compelling argument.

I also won't miss the unforgivable lack of ctrl+f.
posted by mullingitover at 3:50 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


God, I really hope independent and used bookstores are managing to stay afloat, at least. One of them in my town closed last year, so I think they're struggling too. The best bookstores I know are sacred places. I hope my kids and grandkids can experience them.

My experience is that some indie used booksellers are turning to selling books online, especially via aggregators like Amazon and Alibris, since the overhead is lower. As for indie new booksellers, well, given how price conscious everyone is, they have their work cut out for them.
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:50 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've rarely ever found the books I wanted at Borders or B&N, not beyond like bog standard books anyways.

If I'm selecting a book for myself or a book for a course, then I'd usually download & peruse all the interesting titles on that subject listed on gigapedia or library genesis.* If I like the book once I've started reading it, then I'd usually buy the dead tree version from Abebook or Amazon.

It's exceedingly rare that'll be Borders' or B&N's selection on said topic. Good luck finding Gian-Carlo Rota's book on (Ordinary) Differential Equations there for example.

* You see, gigapedia and library genesis have all the books that actually get used when teaching university courses, meaning any book they lack has been uniformly deemed unsuitable by all university faculty who've ever considered it.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:51 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Easy to bemoan and snark about megacorp Borders, but I prefer to remember the times I spent in Borders enjoying new books before the days when new books all migrated to Amazon. Alas, the condition of the stores in the last days is exactly as ardegee describes it -- the one here in Nashville was a hodgepodge of kitschy and overexpensive specialty stationery, greeting cards, bibliophile gewgaws and knick-knacks, and all the academic/non-fiction relegated to the second floor with the clearance books. It's hard to imagine Ann Arbor without the Liberty Street Borders, that's for sure. I can't even imagine what will occupy that storefront -- another clothes boutique? Like there aren't enough of those already in that part of town? A CVS?

"Borders Book Shop was a new business in town, run buy two young brothers from Kentucky. They had burst through one storefront and were opening in a larger place on State Street. They recognized me as a browser -- perhaps they saw the fixated look of the addict -- and I was hired. What ecstasy! I walked home in the hot afternoon sun grinning at the sidewalk and wishing I had someone to celebrate with. ... Suddenly there were thousands of serious readers in town. They thronged the aisles of the store, asked questions, placed orders. The books had an aura, an excitement about them. And just moving the titles back and forth, getting them onto the shelves and into the hands of customers, was an education. For the first time I caught a sense of what a genuine intellectual life might be like. ... I saw my role as quasi-priestly: I was channeling the nourishing word to people who wanted it the most. I had to feel that because otherwise I was just putting in time at a low-paying retail job, not at all ministering to the life of the culture or moving along a worthy career path. However, this was 1973 and not many people my age were thinking about careers and long-term initiatives. The haze of marijuana smoke had not yet cleared from Washtenaw County; people still talked about starting communes or trekking overland from Amsterdam to Afghanistan. There was a sense of the future lying open in all directions. And, added to that, a faith that one could dawdle toward it slowly." -- Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies
posted by blucevalo at 3:51 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


> And soon only Powells in Portland will remain like the Irish monks carrying the embers of civilization through a new dark age.

I bought my copy of A Canticle for Leibowitz at Powell's....
posted by Westringia F. at 3:51 PM on July 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


That store you remember in Ann Arbor is still there, well, as of today anyway when I drove by, if you're talking about the one on Liberty.

The store to remember is the original store on State Street, I shopped there when it was one floor, and if you needed to talk to the owner, you talked to someone named Borders, we got excited as hell when they acquired the second floor of the building.

It was a great place, really valued customers, would do most anything you wanted done. The staff were the greatest, you would have sworn they had read every book ever published.

I miss that store... The corporate mess they've become, I don't think I'll miss that at all.
posted by HuronBob at 3:53 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Finally, an answer to people who come to my library and say 'What do we need a library for when we have Borders?'

It must be nice to be able to buy every book one wants could be another answer.
posted by francesca too at 3:54 PM on July 18, 2011


Griphus: Paperback Rack, Tallahassee. Open for more than two decades. Doesn't rely on romance or modern pulp novels. Not mythical.
posted by grubi at 3:55 PM on July 18, 2011


What also destroyed them was their attempt to branch out and sell toys, CDs and DVDs at full cost when those are also available much cheaper on the internet, especially when used, not to even mention trying to compete with Netflix type services.

The CD's & DVD's made sense up through the 90's, when there were big box multimedia chains left and right that were diversifying into everything. (Tower Records, Virgin, and Media Play for starters).

Toys are a last ditch effort to diversify - B&N has them too.
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:56 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's about 11,000 people being out of work. It is not about you.

No, see, that was Borders' mistake in Australia. If you want to keep people in work, then it has to be all about me.

They thought it was all about them. They figured they'd built it, so I would come - that I'd be knocked out by their many, many shelves, their in-store Gloria Jeans outlet, that I'd be willing to pay anything, do anything to bask in their glory, and that they could use this money to pay for a dozen or more people to walk around the store bothering me but never being actually able to help me, and countless others to work behind the scenes moving tens of thousands of books from here to there 'just in case', and that they'd just jack the prices through their lofty ceilings to make a profit.

But it really is all about me. Me, the customer, the one with the money you so desperately need to pay those people who just lost their jobs. And I don't need or want any of that. To be sure, your store will be packed - by freeloaders, drinking bad coffee made by religious fundamentalists, sitting on your increasingly grotty chairs, reading books and magazine they have no intention of buying. And if your business model for actual paying customers goes something like:

- yes, we have tens of thousands of books, but it costs us a fortune for all this lovely floor space and all these people and moving all these books around so they're all terribly expensive, but don't you just love all the light, the ambience?;

- no, we don't have that particular book you want, even though it's as common and as popular as all fuck because we have a prehistoric supply system that means we sell out of good titles almost instantly then don't get them back in stock for months; and

- yes, we'd be happy to order that for you, but it will take six times as long and cost six times as much as you getting it from Amazon, plus you had to drive here to order it and you'll have to drive back to pick it up, paying fuel and parking both times, as well as standing in an enormous queue

then sayo-fuckin'-nara, Borders.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:57 PM on July 18, 2011 [20 favorites]


My heart goes out to all the Borders employees, partially because I've almost been in a similar situation. A few years ago, I worked for a local independent book store with a few locations. The last year I was there, I started coming into work every day thinking I was going to be let go because the person in the cubicle next to me was. When my son was born, I left to become a stay at home dad, and a few months later, the shops went out of business.

Two of the locations were bought out by employees and both are still open today. As for me, I'm back selling books, but just used ones.
posted by drezdn at 3:57 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a shame all of these people are losing their jobs, especially with the dire employment prospects offered to even highly-skilled workers in the United States, but Borders as an entity? I'm not glad to see it die, but I'm not upset about it either. It was a terrible, terrible "bookstore", with an awfully skint selection of overpriced nonsense, zero customer service (I would think that the first thing a person would do, as a new bookstore employee, is familiarise themselves with the layout of the store and the whereabouts of the various sections, but no), and probably the worst self-serve computerised inventory system in history. But I'll admit it was a good place to go if you wanted an expensive notebook, pen with a piece of fruit on it, an EggFriend(tm), or clock shaped like a horse.

Their motto ought to have been: "No matter what you want, we don't have it (but we can get it for you in six weeks, at twice the price you'd find it anywhere else)! Meanwhile would you like a fridge magnet?"

Borders schmorders.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:58 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Alas. I loved browsing in Borders, but I was unable to buy anything there. Ever. At the location nearest me, they actually marked up from the MSRP. If that's not the dumbest decision in retail history, I don't know what is.

As for Books-a-Million, I find them.. distressing. Their science fiction section is about three-fourths Star Trek, Star Wars, and D&D novelizations. Their history and theology section consists of prosperity gospel crap and "The Pope eats babies" crap. Their "Fiction and Literature" section is filled with Oprah's Book Club. It is a sadness. And yet... and yet... they have a colossal discount section which often has worthwhile books in it. They sell discarded library books (which I am told they buy indiscriminately and in bulk at a fair, flat price).

BAM has actually gotten more of my money in recent years than any other bookstore besides Amazon.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:02 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was always confused by the fact Borders had such a huge music selection, often filling 1/4 to 1/3 of the stores I saw. The selections were dated, terribly organized, and over-priced compared to the other big box stores that often sat beside them. Even the local music shops had better prices!

My only use for Borders was to return books that people gave me (or I bought at a discount online) and trade them for something I wanted. That, and their bins of discount books. Dig enough, and you might find a few gems. But neither feature makes for a great book store.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:02 PM on July 18, 2011


I don't think eBooks vs paper is the issue, and even if it were, the mileage varies so much between texts and people and use situations I don't think there's a completely definitive answer (though over time it seems likely the convenience e-readers will drive the balance that way).

The big loss here in my mind is of one of the few retail spaces that also serve as a third place... and the one of the *very* few large-scale chain retail spaces to function this way. I'd like to believe indies will pick up the slack, but I have my doubts that even entrepreneurs blessed with strong savvy on this front will be either common or able to overcome the same forces that are mashing Borders.

I think there'll be a net loss.

.
posted by weston at 4:03 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


How many jobs has Amazon created in the meantime?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 4:03 PM on July 18, 2011


Borders is the only book retailer near my cubefarm and every month or so I stop in over lunch because I don't have anything to occupy myself while I eat. When I know what I want I tend to use the Kindle app but sometimes I like browsing physical books. I've found a lot of stuff via serendipity and I don't get so much of that from Amazon. Also when I didn't find anything compelling, I hit their magazine racks. Was in there about two weeks ago and had no clue how on the ropes they were. I even paid full price for the damnable Illuminatus! Trilogy.

Back when I was poor-ish and barely making it in Chicago I used to split time between the Borders and B&N on Diversey because their hours were better than the library and the accommodations were at least as nice as my converted SRO apartment. I meticulously rotated which I bought the occasional book from to assuage my guilt. I was never booted for loitering even though either could have certainly made the case.

Sad to see it go even though it and its ilk were responsible for so many other of my favorite establishments going under back in the day. What was an abusive, co-dependent relationship has matured over the years and I was pretty happy with where we were.
posted by Fezboy! at 4:04 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Borders was better before the last few years. They still, up till quite seriously the fourth or fifth day of the liquidation sale, had a better and cheaper and more interesting selection of Russian books than the Barnes & Noble which serves as the official university bookstore for a university with a large and successful Russian department (though thanks to that department and its graduating students, Half Price Books has the best selection in town.) But they had so obviously lost their way that, even if I hadn't already done my "sad Borders is closing" bit a few months ago when they closed every store within 100 miles of my house, I just can't be all that sad about it.

These days I do my book shopping via a "LibraryThing/Amazon wandering spree, stop at two or three Half Price Book locations with my latest list of targets, finally order it on Amazon" method. I go into Barnes & Noble when shopping last-minute for nearby relatives who will be offended by quirky used book gifts.
posted by SMPA at 4:04 PM on July 18, 2011


Damn. A recently homeless friend of mine had JUST been hired at the local Borders a couple weeks ago. He was too stoked about sharing the news that I didn't have the heart to tell him they were dead in the water.

Never was fond of the store itself, though. Awful lotta DVDs on offer for a bookstore.
posted by EatTheWeak at 4:04 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


My experience is that some indie used booksellers are turning to selling books online, especially via aggregators like Amazon and Alibris, since the overhead is lower.

I'm sure 50 people will correct my wrongness about this, but it's my impression that this is where the moms and pops are nowadays. These folks are a fucking godsend for people like me, who otherwise would have to drive 30-50 miles to get to an indie or used bookseller. Great condition copy of a classic or recent well-reviewed book for a buck + $2.98 shipping through Amazon marketplace? You betcher ass, baby. Same goes for used (and new) CDs.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:07 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I worked at the original two-story Borders store in Oak Brook, IL, back in the early 1990s (before it moved to a new location that had a cafe and music section). During the switch to a new inventory system corporate-wide, each store received a list of books that did not have the new bar code stickers on the back.

The manager of the store decided that a handful of employees could probaby track down and pull all of these books off the shelves in a few hours one night after closing. I volunteered to be one of these employees (it was on the clock, however).

We worked all night pulling books off the shelves. Large piles of books covered the floor of the store, as if we were going to be burning them. In a sense, we might as well have been. These were the cool books, the one-offs that were ordered long ago, the niche books that you couldn't find anywhere else. My only hope is that some of them would return as remainders.

I left early in the morning to go home and take a shower. My next shift started in a couple hours. When I got back, the manager was flustered. The store was about to open and there were still piles of books everywhere.

That was the end of the cool Borders for me. They were ditching the oddities in favor of more room for the Oprah Book of the Month. I did special order quite a few books for myself before I quit. That was the only way I could get the books I wanted.
posted by perhapses at 4:10 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jeff Bezos is laughing his ass off today, that's for sure.
posted by crunchland at 4:12 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


My wife and I were just talking about Borders management failures on a long car trip this past weekend. In Connecticut, they were the absolute best (West Farms Borders represent!), but they failed to anticipate or react to changes in the market. From their disastrous, belated attempt at e-commerce to their failure to shrink or discontinue their music offerings in their gigantic stores, they chose the wrong option at every turn...
Goodbye Borders, the me of 20 years ago misses you.
posted by horsemuth at 4:13 PM on July 18, 2011


Well it's long gone but the San Francisco Borders near Union Square used to be a favourite place to go when I was visiting the city. It had a fantastic SF selection and I bought a bunch of Philip K Dick and AE van Vogt books there over the years which are not exactly current authors. Thankfully there are still a few smaller bookstores in my area still for those times when I need to buy a book at the last minute (typically as a gift for a child).
posted by GuyZero at 4:13 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good riddance. Now, Barnes and Noble, please please please follow suit.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:17 PM on July 18, 2011


tylerkaraszewski: "How many jobs has Amazon created in the meantime?"

The better question is, how much money has Amazon saved me on sales tax?
posted by mullingitover at 4:17 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


AH, I had a nice small local bookstore that was fun to browse through. Old fashioned cash register, narrow aisles etc. Then Borders and Barnes and Noble came to town and closed the place down ...now it is their turn.
posted by Postroad at 4:21 PM on July 18, 2011


Oh I will say one thing for Borders. Had a comprehensive magazine section. I was amazed to find, one day, that they stocked Punk Planet, a magazine at that time I had sent to me from the US. I was less amazed to look at the price they were selling it for, and stuck to my air mail subscription...
posted by Jimbob at 4:23 PM on July 18, 2011


Online at Amazon, or in person at Borders, either way the author makes almost nothing.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:24 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


.
posted by halonine at 4:25 PM on July 18, 2011


Aw, shit. Now here's one bookstore I am sad to see closing down: Reader's Feast, in Melbourne. Owned by the same cluster of fuckknobs who ran Borders and Angus & Robertson, and perhaps plagued these days by the same problems, but six years ago Reader's Feast was easily the best bookstore in Australia, to my mind. They had everything I ever wanted, and everything I didn't even know I wanted. Smart, friendly staff who were always willing to help and go out of their way to keep you happy. Great computer catalogue. Good prices. Damn.

I just hope Folio keeps going strong here in Brisbane. Picked up two Hrabals there yesterday for twelve bucks each. Yeah that's right: a pair of Hrabals. I keep my Hrabals in my sack.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:28 PM on July 18, 2011


I feel sorry for all the 'good riddance' people, because they must not know the joy of wandering around a bookstore (like Borders) browsing and reading a first page here and there. Finding books to read that they never would have even considered before. It's a simple pleasure I've missed since the Borders a couple blocks from my work closed. Many a lazy lunch-hour was spent that way, and basing many of your purchasing decisions on Amazon reviews means you miss out on a lot.
posted by Windigo at 4:31 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've commonly had problems trying to get SF from local/indy bookstores. Like, worse than a mall Waldenbooks or even literally nothing.

This. I used to frequent a, now defunct, local chain and their SF selection was atrocious. Definitely Borders, B&N or maybe Half Price Books if I wanted fantasy and/or SF. Their prices were competitive with the big boys and they had a program where a portion of each sale was donated to an organization of your choice but...their genre fiction and magazine selection was sorely lacking.
posted by MikeMc at 4:33 PM on July 18, 2011


I used to own a bookstore. When Borders opened in my town, I was so glad I had sold my bookstore. It finally closed due to competition from Amazon, Borders, etc. The world of writing, publishing and reading is changing, and it's going to change a lot more, and I have no idea what it will look like in 5 or 10 years. I like reading physical books, and I'll keep buying them, new or used. I really love good bookstores, and that's a pleasure I think my theoretical grandkids may never know. sigh.
posted by theora55 at 4:34 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel sorry for all the 'good riddance' people, because they must not know the joy of wandering around a bookstore (like Borders) browsing and reading a first page here and there.

I feel sorry all the people obsessed with wandering around book stores, because clearly they've never been told about libraries...
posted by Jimbob at 4:38 PM on July 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


I feel sorry for all the 'good riddance' people, because they must not know the joy of wandering around a bookstore (like Borders) browsing and reading a first page here and there.

Nope, that never happened. I was listening to Radio National yesterday and there was a bloke talking about the joy of browsing the shelves at a bookstore and uncovering random treasures and unexpected delights, a joy that will never be replicated at Amazon, but Borders did not offer that pleasure. For example, say you were interested in a nice little book on World War II, so you went to the appropriate section at Borders. There would be a full row of the latest Beevor and, subsequently, all the earlier Beevor, because Borders was betting that the most recent Beevor would cause an outbreak of what I like to call "Beevor fever". But outside of the latest release and the rest of the Beevor ouvre, there was NOTHING AT ALL. You couldn't browse at Borders because it was uniformly and comprehensively shit and anyway how are you supposed to browse for anything when they don't even have a starting point - that is, a book you are actually interested in - from which to browse?
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:41 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Some people prefer to own copies of books. Why does that bother you?
posted by grubi at 4:42 PM on July 18, 2011


If you live in Chicago and you haven't frequented The Book Cellar (independent bookstore and café, I suggest you do so pronto. Authors often have talks there, local book clubs meet there, they have free wireless, great selection of wines and beers, an awesome grilled-cheese sandwich (always MetaFilter favorite!) and the cupcakes voted Best in Chicago.

Chicago Magazine also named it Best Bookstore in Chicago, beating out some other really popular independent bookstores.

I'm lucky to live in a town that has a lot of independent bookstores; I'm just bummed that the closing of the Uptown Borders put a huge hole in my neighborhood's commerce, when it's trying to come up in the world a little bit. (Still, we've got Shake, Rattle 'n Read, an awesome used bookstore, just up the street, though. They carry cds, dvds, and vinyl, too.)
posted by tzikeh at 4:43 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thatsfor Jimbob, btw
posted by grubi at 4:43 PM on July 18, 2011


that's a pleasure I think my theoretical grandkids may never know. sigh.

Well, used, I should think the outlook is better than that. I mean to say, books last for decades, even centuries. Stop the printing presses today and you still have a huge back log, you have plenty of those eccentric who would rather spend their lives living amongst and pushing old paper than any desk job, and clearly plenty of people who like to shop in such places.

I feel sorry all the people obsessed with wandering around book stores, because clearly they've never been told about libraries...


Frankly, I suspect their prognosis is long term more negative than book stores, esp with the rise of ebooks. That 58 % won't necessarily want to support the habits of the rest, esp in a digital age. Modern public libraries are really a relatively recent phenomenon.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:43 PM on July 18, 2011


That would be "independent bookstore and café" close parens.

As I saw on twitter: one day I'm going to accidentally type an extra /> and wind up closing the whole Internet.
posted by tzikeh at 4:44 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, our local independent bookstore has now officially outlasted Borders. They must be thrilled.

I, on the other hand, am cranky. Borders did have better selection (sorry, but spacewise anyway they did) on random books. They had more books on some topics that I research. It was the closest one to my work so I'd go over there during lunch. There were coupons. And above all else, I could sit around in there for hours flipping through books trying to figure out what I'd like to get. Online book shopping gives you better selection options, but most of the time you can't flip through much or any of the book to determine if you're going to like it if you buy it. I've bought books I wouldn't have gotten because they were on the shelves nearby the book I specifically came in to get (and then didn't get). I was able to figure out if a book was gonna be a boner or not by flipping through it. Now that option is going to pretty much be gone and I'll probably have to order most of everything off Amazon. Also, Borders was one of the very few stores open past 6 p.m. in my small town, so where am I gonna go after hours to loaf about?

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:45 PM on July 18, 2011


That would be "an extra </ >"

GODDAMMIT JOKES AREN'T FUNNY WHEN YOU FUCK THEM UP.
posted by tzikeh at 4:45 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some people prefer to own copies of books. Why does that bother you?

Some people prefer the copies of books they own to be free of dog-ears and coffee stains from the person who sat in Borders reading it for 3 hours before putting it back on the shelf.
posted by Jimbob at 4:47 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Border's at Rosedale Mall in Roseville, Minnesota used to have a moderately decent DVD selection for a mall store, and not that long ago. I actually bought stuff there a couple of times. Their loyalty program was being pushed with a tone you normally associate with Amway or Scientology, though, which was a bit of a turn-off.
posted by gimonca at 4:54 PM on July 18, 2011


I worked for Borders/Waldens/BGI for nearly 6 years. After 5 years I don't think I was even clearing $8 an hour (I left in 1996). I have some good memories of that place, but for the most part I remember being vastly underpaid and having to deal with asshole customers that had little sense of empathy.

After this job I vowed I would never touch another man's credit card unless I was getting the money.

I remember some of my favorite customer quotes. We'd get them often. It got to where my replies were nearly rote:

"If I worked here I'd do nothing but read all day."
"If you read all day you'd be fired."

"If I worked here all my money would go into books."
"If you worked here you couldn't afford to buy books."

"They could just pay me in books!"
"As soon as I can buy groceries and pay my rent with books that sounds like a great idea."

On and on.

The best thing that ever happened to me was to not get an assistant managers job I applied for. I think it was paying $17,500. If I've gotten that I might even be a store manager making $35k by now!

I love books. I love working with books. I hate how much one gets working for bookstores.

It was a nice clean job, but I think I would have been way better off never having worked there as my primary employer. It's a fun job. I even did it as a Christmas temp a few years back (I closed the Ames IA Waldens). I miss books.

My dream is to one day own a bookstore. It's my retirement dream. I still plan to do it. I just figure it'll be full of rare books. I was born to be a bookseller—15 years on I still see customers and remember their book tastes—there's just no economy in it.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:56 PM on July 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


I frequented Borders for 3 things: imported metal magazines (more specifically Terrorizer which originally sold for a laugh inducing $6.66 an issue) Warhammer 40K paperbacks and Picadilly Moleskine knock-offs. I didn't get there much after I bought 2 e-readers but it was nice to have that option.
posted by MikeMc at 4:58 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's time for me to go fixture shopping!

(I am not reveling in the thought of 11,000 people being laid off, but I have two comic shops to run and I'll pick what meat I can from corporate carcasses. That's how I stay in business.)

When we opened back in 1988, an old guy at the local news agency told me this pearl of wisdom which has stuck with me ever since:

"The only people who make money in this business are the fixture manufacturers."
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:59 PM on July 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


i already miss the borders in mishawaka and ft wayne and now i'm going to miss the main store in ann arbor, even though i only came there 3 or 4 times over the last 20 years - the last time was last year and i noticed that it had become much more homogenized, more like a barnes and noble

i thought they were somewhat better than b&n but the gap was narrowing - and i've noticed in kalamazoo's b&n, that the same kind of right wing, christian type books seem to be taking over the political and religious sections - i've also noticed that the store seems to have less stock and less customers - they've expanded the teaching aide, game and toy sections

i'm beginning to get the impression that b&n isn't doing that well
posted by pyramid termite at 5:00 PM on July 18, 2011


"How many jobs has Amazon created in the meantime?"

Not sure how many they have created just in the past year or two, but Amazon has 37,900 direct employees total. (Borders currently has only 5,700 according to Google; I guess the 11k number must count indirects.) If we use B&N as the comparison for a healthy bookstore, it employs 30k. So I think Amazon has definitely been bigger in recent years than either, although perhaps not more than both at their peak.

Starting pay is around $10.50 an hour for an order-packer, apparently. I think that compares pretty favorably to Borders. I doubt the workplace has much in common, though.

Oh god did I just link to Yahoo Answers?
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:00 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Mystery brick.
posted by loquacious at 5:03 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't buy tons of books like I used to, but lately about 3/4 have been bought via online discovery and/or recommendation. Some of that is simply Amazon or B&N making suggestions, but a good chunk of that is the process

Do a Google search
Land on a Google books result
Wow, I bet the whole book is cool!
Look, I can buy it right now...

I probably get about one a month that way.

Couple of times a year, I'll go to the big local B&N if I think they have exactly what I want: probably a travel book, or a cookbook or something. Otherwise, I don't have much need for big-box bookstores anymore, and to be honest, with my esoteric tastes, they probably don't have much need for me either.

That's keeping in mind, too, that a lot of my information and info-tainment needs are handled online without paper versions. Haven't warmed to e-books yet, they're in a weird middle ground for me that I don't need right now.
posted by gimonca at 5:07 PM on July 18, 2011


I loved Borders back in the '90s when they actually had books. The last time that I was in one they seemed to have about as many books as an airport shop but just spread really thinly throughout the store. That one closed a few months ago in the first round of bankruptcy. B&N had already closed both of their local stores.

My city of 300K now has zero general interest bookstores within the city limits.
posted by octothorpe at 5:10 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reading this post made me think about the big bookstore that I occasionally go to, the one down the street from my house and in the fancy strip mall... and it occurred to me that I have no idea if it's a Borders or a B&N. Like, seriously, it could be a fifty-fifty chance either way. In my mind they are are completely interchangeable down to the very look of their stores and what they stock. Except B&N might have a little less of the extra, non-book crap that's always laying around?
posted by Burritos Inc. at 5:10 PM on July 18, 2011


I feel sorry all the people obsessed with wandering around book stores, because clearly they've never been told about libraries...

Sure, and I have a library card I make good use of. But there is no library walking distance from my office, and even if there was sometimes you don't want to be on a waiting list or maybe you just want to buy a book.

It's not a zero sum game.
posted by Windigo at 5:12 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


People who can't find the new book you want in your friendly, neighborhood indie bookstore: every indie bookstore I've ever met takes daily special orders from customers. My bookstore sends orders off twice a week; get your book request on one of those and you can pick your book up at the store in two days, no charge for shipping.

And while you're here, I'll give your beautiful dog a bowl of water in exchange for ear-skritching, inform you we've got the new book from the Elephant & Piggy series your daughter's obsessed with, and share your squee that the traveling show of Wicked is back into town. (And that Gregory Maguire has a fourth Oz book coming out in November, YAY!) Because in small bookstores each sale to each customer really does make a difference in our ability to pay rent, so we really do care that you exist and walk out happy.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:14 PM on July 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


I feel sorry all the people obsessed with wandering around book stores, because clearly they've never been told about libraries...

My local library branch was recently renovated. It now has 30 computer terminals and less than a quarter of the shelving stacks it used to have. The terminal area is now three times as large as the area allocated for books. It's certainly has nothing approaching the number of books, new and old, available at the local Borders (not to mention the diversity of magazines - there were sixteen full cabinets of magazine titles at one local Borders near me).

RIP Borders. Despite all your failings (and your wretched management), you will be missed, at least by some of us.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:17 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I loved Borders and B&N back when I was in Indiana. Both were an easy walk from the weekly laundromat ritual and a good place to kill a half-hour with a cup of coffee and some browsing. But, Borders had muscled out a local bookstore next door. So when B&N moved in across the street, it was no surprise that my hometown Borders was among the first to get the axe.

But, as I've discovered, that was a luxury of location. Most are isolated in strip malls and appeared to be cutting back books in favor of something else that they stock badly and don't fully support with staff. It's like Starbucks or WallMart: big, mediocre, homogenized, and don't seem to get much loyalty from their employees. And yeah, that might be a step up in service in some locations, or it might just be more of the same.

None of local bookstores scratch my genre itch. I think when I went to B&N last month, I saw most of the Jim Butcher novels, two Asimov, two Clarke, two Le Guin, no Tepper, about half of Martin Millar, the complete Drizzt, about a hundred "sexy supernatural detective" novels, and two dozen sexy steampunk/alt history novels. Little of the flavors I read and a lot of the flavors I don't read.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:18 PM on July 18, 2011


How many jobs has Amazon created in the meantime?

According to their website, 37900 worldwide.
posted by GilloD at 5:20 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many jobs has Amazon created in the meantime?

Well there are direct jobs, additional expansion at various shippers and whatehousing facilities. Also what about small retailers who leverage amazon for sales and e-commerce. So it is hard to measure exactly. Also don't discount iTunes for putting them under, the CD business was great for Borders once. In terms of today's numbers per Wikipedia Amazon employs 33,700 people versus 19500 at Borders.
posted by humanfont at 5:20 PM on July 18, 2011


We used to perform improv shows at some of the local Borders out here. They went really well, but we never had anything to sell, so the performance gigs started going to local bands.

Now, as much as I resented losing the gigs, my friends in bands told me that those gigs were really hella-lucrative for them, both in terms of building fan base and selling CDs.

That said, I haven't really bought anything from Borders in several years and most of the bands I know are into self-distributing these days. Its a shame to see all those jobs go away, low paying though they may be.

Fortunately, as we all know, job creation is the main focus of our current congress.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:21 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If 11,000 people are newly out of work and you're happy about it because you hate a store, your sense of entitlement has gone just about far enough. It's not about you. It's about 11,000 people being out of work. It is not about you.

Okay, look. I'm pretty far-left, but this is how markets work. Borders sold identical products at identical prices to its competitors. In an industry like that, the only way to survive is to operate more efficiently than your competitors.

Borders couldn't do that, and also happened to have an outdated business model on top of that. I'll cry because this happened during a recession, and a time when the government is doing everything in its power to fuck the poor. I won't cry because a shitty company failed. To make progress as a society, firms need to be able to fail. (And, seriously. I don't understand how they held onto any of their staff toward the end. Everybody saw this coming from a mile away.)

Oh, and can we stop using the "Too Big To Fail" meme everywhere please? That phrase originated from the (valid) concern that a liquidity crisis would occur if several large banks were to fail at once. It has nothing to do with the number of employees working at a firm. (Although it was occasionally and controversially referenced during the bailout of GM due to the number of small industries that the company was singlehandedly propping up. It's a much different thing for a retailer to fail than it is for a manufacturing conglomerate with few competitors to fail.)
posted by schmod at 5:22 PM on July 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


Can't say this is a surprise. As far back as the mid-late 90s, I wondered how Borders stayed in business with their policy of selling virtually every book at full retail price. Perhaps I'm just rationalizing my own behavior, but they just begged to be the kind of store where one would spend hours and hours browsing, but making an actual purchase elsewhere for cheaper.
posted by The Gooch at 5:25 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, see, that was Borders' mistake in Australia. If you want to keep people in work, then it has to be all about me.

You're not seeing it. I'm not asking Borders to want to keep people in work. Borders, like any other megacorp, doesn't give a shit about that. I expect real people, however, to be unhappy with the prospect of eleven thousand newly unemployed people. If you're still talking about how Borders sucks because they didn't have everything you wanted and it's all about yoooooouu and your personal satisfaction level, you are letting your entitlement blind you to the real meat of this story. No one gives a rat's ass whether you liked shopping at Borders, and that you didn't is almost certainly nothing to do with why the stores are going out of business, and even that they are going out of business is not the point. The point is the people who are out of work; we have a lot of them already, and now we have eleven thousand more. We have a situation that is getting worse instead of better, and supposedly it's been getting better for two years. But if you're glad a store that had the gall to not be your favorite store ever ever ever is closed, okay; I guess we all have our priorities.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:27 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Our political goal as a nation should not be keeping shitty companies like Borders open, for the sake of keeping those jobs around. It should be creating jobs with dynamic businesses and organizations, ones that will hopefully thrive over the long term. The auto bailout was arguably a different case because the auto-making biz is more capital-intensive, not easily replaced, more (arguably) vital to national interests, and it looked as if it could be turned around, etc. But I don't see that anyone could seriously argue that the government should prop up Borders or Blockbuster or whatever.
posted by raysmj at 5:34 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ten years of nothing more than bad management decisions stacked on bad management decisions brought this company down.

The above can't be stated enough. While "e-books and Amazon" played a role, an equal if not greater role was played by poor management. The NYT laid out some of the Borders-specific problems in an article last February; it's worth a read if you want to understand why using Borders' failure to make pronouncements about the general book business may not be a good move:

The troubles of Borders are rooted in a series of strategic missteps, executive turnover and a failure to understand the digital revolution — problems in many ways of Borders’ own making. But as those in the volatile industry digested the news that most saw coming, they were acutely aware of the bigger picture: that in a fast-evolving bookselling environment there is slim margin for error...

Shake-ups at the top of the Borders corporate structure contributed to an overall sense of instability in the last several years. When other stores were downsizing or eliminating their music and DVD sections, Borders delayed scaling back its own.

Borders also opened stores overseas, a move that analysts said stretched the company thin. “They overexpanded,” said Michael Norris, senior analyst with Simba Information, which provides research and advice to publishers. “They just had the mentality of, ‘If we open a new store, the growth will happen.’ ”

posted by mediareport at 5:34 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


No good will come of this, at least for physical books. No new stores will open, just like with music. And physical manifestations of texts will begin to become more rare. As people and institutions unload their real books, we're starting to see a collapse of the used book market. I suspect that will soon be followed by extravagant inflation in that very same market after the number of physical books in the world plummets. Right now individuals and libraries are beginning to liquidate their physical holdings. It seems like lots of stuff is happening to books, whether we like it or not. Libraries will begin to close, there will be fewer and fewer collections of physical books. We will all start to notice there are fewer and fewer books around us. But everyone will likely still have more access to texts than there were in the past. Though I wonder if those texts will be riddled with errors.

I don't know that it's a bad thing for the species, but it does feel like were putting all the chips on red 37. And I will certainly miss the tactile delight of the physical book.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:44 PM on July 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


Hopefully they'll be able to engage these new patrons that until recently neglected to visit their store in favor of a well stocked chain.

Not if they insist on closing at 5pm, like the ones around here! heh.

A world without Borders surely makes my life less convenient, as I won't shop at Amazon.

We do still have a Barnes and Noble, who haven't quite embraced the "let's be a tchotchke shop" quite as much as Borders seemed to, but they are rapidly heading in that direction.
posted by madajb at 5:50 PM on July 18, 2011


And I will certainly miss the tactile delight of the physical book.

I just finished Dance With Dragons (purchased at Barnes and Noble) and my wife rolled her eyes and commented "you could have downloaded that to my Kindle."

I replied, "Yeah, but this is a book. I like to have the book sometimes."

She replied, "We really don't have room for books anymore."

Its not that shes not a reader, its just that we live in a really small place.

But, you know, its a book!
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:51 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


My own reasons for not shopping at Borders:

1. Their books were overpriced, compared to what I could find elsewhere (especially on Amazon).

2. Buying a book at Borders meant I had to pay sales tax, which I didn't have to do via Amazon. So, again, cheaper not to shop there.

3. Every time I went to Borders (and B&N), I saw someone pawing through a book, slouched in a comfy chair, who then proceeded to re-shelve the book when they were finished with it. If I wanted to buy a used book, I'd be shopping at a used book store. If I want to buy a new book, it's not going to be one that has the spine already broken, the pages already flipped through, the jacket already smeared, etc.

4. The kitsch and other crap they sold never interested me.

5. When shopping online, I can immediately find reviews and commentary on the book, including info about the author, etc. that would far exceed the staff's abilities at Borders. I don't doubt that niche indie shops could offer that kind of insight, but it was seldom available at either B&N or Borders when I really needed it. So it was just better to turn around, walk out and go home to shop online.

I'm sorry for hearing anyone lost their job. But I can't help but feel like the Borders/B&N business model has been selling buggy whips for the past few years. I'm not a big e-reader, but there are other options (i.e., online) for getting my physical book fix.
posted by darkstar at 5:53 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


That comment that John Cohen linked to upthread pretty much says it. My brother worked at Borders for a good 10 years and that was exactly his experience.
posted by marxchivist at 5:55 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


That said, I've long nurtured a fantasy of running a tiny book shop when I retire. Something that never made money, but was a cozy little nook to putter around books and the people who love them. Tea, coffee, a cat, decent music and some nice chairs, etc.
posted by darkstar at 5:56 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I understand the assertion that any response to this other than wailing and gnashing teeth at the job losses is immoral. Those people had jobs in the first place because Borders at one point was a well-run business that made money and that people wanted to patronize, and they lost them because it no longer is; it hardly seems out of place to comment on how that happened. I mean, I certainly feel for them, but they're not getting their jobs back if we can summon up enough liberal guilt over a more-mediocre-every-year chain bookstore folding.

Most of the job losses at Borders already happened, by the way: the 11,000 people left is down from 35,000 five years ago.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 5:59 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, every couple of weeks they email out a 30 or 40 percent off coupon. So often I would be able to buy books there more cheaply than on Amazon.
posted by Windigo at 6:01 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


So now where will Manny go when he and Bernard have a spat?

I'm sad to see the Borders down the street from my office (School Street, Boston) close, but then again, it was their incompetence in unpacking and putting books out on the floor that finally pushed me into looking into the Kindle a few years back. After that, they became mainly a physical browsing store for books I'd later download on Kindle. The only stuff I'd buy from them were, as someone mentioned above, Warhammer paperbacks, but even that is now sliding towards Amazon.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:01 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I blame JK Rowling for not writing more books.
posted by ColdChef at 6:01 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


1990: "What'chu readin' for?"
2011: "Paper? Like for the toilet?"

Ah, it's not going to be Fahrenheit 251 by Kert Vonneguts or nothin. Just some stores closin'

People who want books are going to get them and people who don't want them - probably a waste of coffee and pastries to try to lure them in anyway.
I don't think libraries are going to close and perhaps this may even spur people to support their local libraries even more.

Reading is a shared experience even as it is a solitary pursuit.

"There are magic moments, involving great physical fatigue and intense motor excitement, that produce visions of people known in the past. As I learned later from the delightful little book of the Abbé de Bucquoy, there are also visions of books as yet unwritten." - Umberto Eco. Il nome della rosa.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:04 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I understand the assertion that any response to this other than wailing and gnashing teeth at the job losses is immoral.

I'm not entirely sure it's just the job losses. Each Borders carried tens of thousands of books in organized collections. Pretty soon 399 communities will no longer have access to those collections of thousands of books. Earlier this year 200 more communities lost the same. I think that's really the source of the gnashing and what not.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:07 PM on July 18, 2011


I expect real people, however, to be unhappy with the prospect of eleven thousand newly unemployed people.

Sorry for not pretending to care as much as you claim to care (today, anyway) about what happens to a relatively small number of complete strangers. The number of unemployed in the US increased by 545,000 people in the quarter from March to June. That's 45,000 people every...single...week. I guess I must have missed your regular Monday morning 'real person' posts where you lamented their collective plights.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:07 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel sorry all the people obsessed with wandering around book stores, because clearly they've never been told about libraries...

Well, that is pat.

My favourite author has published about five dozen books. My local library system, which stocked most of them when I was a teenager 25 years ago, now has exactly two of them. The extensive renovations to the main branch has, however, put in a lot of terminals where people can read about the books which are no longer available.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:26 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Many of those communities had competing bookstores, sometimes in the same strip mall.

But we can play the game of ____ doesn't shelve a copy of my favorite ___ all night long.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:32 PM on July 18, 2011


I used to live in the New York City area. I found myself utterly loathing my Local Mom And Pop Bookstore, because when I went in there looking for the SF section, there was one book there: "Glorious Appearing". Yeah, the Left Behind book. When I asked about other SF or Fantasy books, I was told they would not order 'filth'.

Therefore, I had B&N, Amazon orders, and for really obscure stuff, I'd head to the Strand.

(The Strand is actually kind of depressing in a lot of ways, because the place really needs a huge renovation and reworking, and I'm not just saying that as a Fat Guy dealing with narrow locations, but because there's places where things are just weirdly organized and trying to find something stops being a hunt for a book and ends up requiring some hobbits, a ranger, an elf, a dwarf and either a twisted remnant of a person consumed by obsessions, or Rudy Giuliani (but I repeat myself).)
posted by mephron at 6:37 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure I understand the assertion that any response to this other than wailing and gnashing teeth at the job losses is immoral.
I'm not entirely sure it's just the job losses. Each Borders carried tens of thousands of books in organized collections. Pretty soon 399 communities will no longer have access to those collections of thousands of books. Earlier this year 200 more communities lost the same. I think that's really the source of the gnashing and what not.


It's another sign of a passing of an era, where bookstores and music stores anchored one's media experience. It wasn't perfect, and it wasn't cheap, but those are real, physical places. Or were.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:37 PM on July 18, 2011


How many jobs has Amazon created in the meantime?
A lot, but they're all at UPS.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:41 PM on July 18, 2011


As an Ann Arbor native with family in the Corporate HQ, I honestly won't miss the Border's corporate chain much, but the flagship store was at least a reminder of the original State Street location that I'd often play around in as a child waiting for my dad to get his book fix. And just across the street from the flagship store, my late grandfather's local gift shop finally closed last year after almost 60 years of business. So for me this just adds to the general disappointment of seeing all your hometown fixtures dwindle away.

While there's not much to miss in the closing of a corporate chain, there is plenty to miss in the disappearance of brick and mortar book shops, the loss of jobs, and for Ann Arbor/Michigan natives, the ongoing extinction of local downtown fixtures, not to mention the impact this will have on Michigan's already weak and struggling economy.
posted by p3t3 at 6:41 PM on July 18, 2011


I used to work at Store 1 in Ann Arbor. I was one of the last hires at the State Street location, and I helped with the move to Liberty.

For an early twenty-something with outsized dreams and no idea how to attain them, it was a great, great, great place to be. The staff was full of newly-minted Ph.D.s, musicians, visual artists, and writers.

This is what you did all day, if you were a clerk at Borders 1: In the morning, you sat at the Front Info desk (possibly with an illicit cup of coffee) and you yakked about Soul Coughing and taxidermy with a fellow clerk that you had a little crush on; then you moved to the Kids' desk and hand-sold E. Nesbitt books for an hour or two. After lunch, you restocked your section, facing out the weird special editions of Peter Straub and carefully (anti-)displaying latest Shatner effort with a single copy, spine-out, even though you had, like, a hundred of them in the basement. (The buyer for your section hated you for doing this; you didn't care.) Later, you went and helped out in the stock room and giggled hysterically with another clerk about how you ought to get a Sharpie and write "R. Mutt" on the side of the huge styrofoam peanut-sucking machine that hung from the ceiling. Then Joe Gable came in from having his yogurt-and-cigar dinner break and told you (gravelily, yet somehow charmingly) that there was a line at the register and to stop screwing around and get out there. Which you gladly did. At the till, you'd get to examine a customer's nifty special order about the history of English prison architecture. And sure, maybe you'd have to deal with a customer trying to return a suspiciously crusty copy of _The Men's Self-Sexuality Handbook_ before your shift ended, but you've got to take the bitter with the sweet.

That Borders is long, long gone, even though the store's still standing. Even in my day, it was beginning to lose its heart. I definitely won't miss Borders in its current incarnation. It's like a drooling, shambling zombie that, when alive, was once my very best friend.

It's more than a decade late, but still:

.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:46 PM on July 18, 2011 [29 favorites]


I sure am glad that everybody, across the board and at all levels of income, education, and official-language proficiency, has access to well-supported public library systems, home Internet access, and bank accounts (to say nothing of credit cards) with which to shop for books online. Oh, and e-readers. Everybody has those.

I realize, of course, that perhaps most people have some combination of those things, but there are going to be segments of populations up till now serviced primarily by stores like Borders that don't. It's shitty to see those people getting left just that much further behind. Again.
posted by wreckingball at 6:48 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


If 11,000 people are newly out of work and you're happy about it because you hate a store, your sense of entitlement has gone just about far enough.

You know who else employed a lot of people?

The Death Star.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 6:53 PM on July 18, 2011 [20 favorites]


Many of those communities had competing bookstores, sometimes in the same strip mall.

Competition, schmompetition!

Up here in Canada, if you're in a shopping centre, chances are there are at least two Chapters/Indigo-owned bookstores in it, selling identical product for identical prices. And there's probably a freestanding Chapters megastore just across the parking lot.

Gosh, monopolies are fun.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:57 PM on July 18, 2011


The big loss here in my mind is of one of the few retail spaces that also serve as a third place... and the one of the *very* few large-scale chain retail spaces to function this way.

Agreed. It's the primary loss.
posted by stbalbach at 7:00 PM on July 18, 2011


I feel sorry all the people obsessed with wandering around book stores, because clearly they've never been told about libraries...

I believe in libraries. I think everyone should own one.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:01 PM on July 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


MetaFilter: a drooling, shambling zombie that, when alive, was once my very best friend.
posted by rdone at 7:02 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just got convinced to get one of their Borders Rewards whatever you call it cards. It just seemed like such a good deal. I don't know why I didn't think of this.
posted by Defenestrator at 7:03 PM on July 18, 2011


(The Strand is actually kind of depressing in a lot of ways, because the place really needs a huge renovation and reworking, and I'm not just saying that as a Fat Guy dealing with narrow locations, but because there's places where things are just weirdly organized and trying to find something stops being a hunt for a book and ends up requiring some hobbits, a ranger, an elf, a dwarf and either a twisted remnant of a person consumed by obsessions, or Rudy Giuliani (but I repeat myself).)

Try finding your book with only 4 white mages next time...
posted by Theta States at 7:06 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Small, independent bookstores will weather the economy and new technology in the places where they already seem to be, relatively speaking, thriving: small affluent blue-state towns (Berkshires-type places) and college towns, and maybe one per every quarter-million or so people in major cities. These are areas where people will pay a premium to patronize independent bookstores, if not in price then in convenience. Independent bookstores these days are primarily for people who value them in themselves, for their aesthetic and political and social qualities, like bike lanes, or old trees.

Borders and B&N put bookstores right in the midst of suburban American life. Sure they're gauche and salivate over James Patterson's oeuvre and are full of people reading "How to Start XYZ Business" books over their Starbucks all day without paying. But they're still bookstores. They're full of books and they're big enough to have the best stuff along with the lowbrow. And if you go to a B&N in, say, Gwinnett County, Georgia, like the one where I used to work, on a Saturday night, it will be buzzing with people of all ages, races, income levels, and education levels. With the way we've paved over our public spaces and confined ourselves to driving from place to place, these large bookstore chains are really a major, positive part of suburban American civic life. Just by virtue of being smaller and less diverse, I doubt that independent bookstores can replace that, and I think it's a shame.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:07 PM on July 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


clearly they've never been told about libraries. --- I don't know how it is where you live, but the hours that the public libraries where I live (Fairfax County, Virginia) have been drastically shortened due to budget cuts. And my county is one of the wealthiest counties in the country, with a median household income in excess of $100k a year. I would imagine that libraries in jurisdictions with even more financial difficulties are faring even worse. So, good luck with that.
posted by crunchland at 7:11 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


there are going to be segments of populations up till now serviced primarily by stores like Borders that don't. It's shitty to see those people getting left just that much further behind. Again.

Could you clarify specifically which segments you're referring to here? I can tell you that out here in the sticks, the working class people who read but don't have Visa-sponsored debit cards or home Net access typically use the small town public libraries, buy books at WalMart or the other grocery store, and/or pass around books that family and friends have bought online or locally.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:11 PM on July 18, 2011


"Are store is staying open."

Heh.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:15 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry for not pretending to care as much as you claim to care (today, anyway) about what happens to a relatively small number of complete strangers.

I don't even know what to say to this that doesn't involve the kind of language that we usually save for metatalk, and honestly employing it would just be me pointlessly sissy-fighting you when I'm actually pissed off at the larger situation. Suffice it to say, these people are not strangers to me; I've spent a lot of my life working in bookstores and libraries, and I am very unhappy to see such people out of work and the environments they created falling away, even if I do think that paper books are basically outmoded. It's a conundrum, but mostly it's something that's very bad for some people who generally speaking are not living large even with a job like this. I care very much; I'm not sure why you don't, as you seem proudly not to, but that's not really my problem.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:25 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


You wanna trash Borders as a corporate entity? Say that e-readers, and bad management, and a total lack of understanding of the ways that technology were changing things killed them? Go right ahead. I'm not going to argue with you. They killed off their own website to become an Amazon affiliate, and then brought it back far too late. The failed to get in on the e-reader market. They got Starbucks' red headed stepchild of a coffee company to replace their own. Borders INC made a lot of bad decisions.

But to look at your local store, and say good riddens?

I worked for Borders for 4 years, finishing up as a training supervisor, and making less than $10/hr at that point. I started after the time of the book knowledge quizzes, but we were still full of staff who loved books, and loved selling books. This, for the most part, wasn't a place where teenagers came to get their fill-in-the-blank summer job. We got people who wanted to sell books or music or movies. We got people who knew the product and could speak knowledgably about it. I worked with this one guy, Dick, could sell ice to Eskimos as they say. A woman of a certain age walked in the door, 40s, 50s, a lady who lunched, ya know? and ask for Dick. And leave if he wasn't there. They would read whatever he put in their hands. Oh, and Randy! Knew his music like nobody's business. Didn't take shit from anyone, so eventually he parted ways with the store, but his customer interaction stories survived to amuse sellers on a rough day. He lasted a long time, despite his attitude, because he knew his stuff that well.

We had the most kickass manga section in the area, shelves and shelves of manga, because we had people who loved it and ordered it and handsold it, and over time, the section grew. We had managers who recognized when people knew what they were doing, and backed them. We recognized our regulars, and knew what they liked, and were happy to see them come in, because we had a new book for them. People who wanted recommendations were gold to us, the most fun customers. I loved helping people find books, and sometimes not find books - like the guy who had been recommended Left Behind by a client, and wasn't familiar with the series, or the mother who had been told by the librarian that Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books would be perfect for her 14 year old daughter.

I loved being able to "read" a section by the face-outs, and walk right up to the book people had requested without even stopping to see where I was. I loved knowing that the likely answer to "Where are your pregnancy books?" was "What To Expect When You're Expecting", and the likely answer to "Where's Sociology?" was "Fast Food Nation or Nickled and Dimed?" I loved that my husband got so used to me calling him at work to see who had been on the morning talk shows talking about their book. (Shoulda given us some internet access at Info, corporate!) And I loved calling our store in Maine for a grandmother to track down something she wanted for her granddaughter, and then tearing up to learn the granddaughter had cancer, and that's why the grandmother wanted so badly to find it.

I even loved helping the woman find the Russian phrase book because she'd just picked up her new nanny from the airport and she was in the car with the woman's 3 kids. And the dad trying to find "age-appropriate" Bettie Page for his 14 year old girl, because she'd asked. And the parent who needed "Knight, by Weasel" for her kid's summer reading. And the woman who thought Anne of Green Gables was non-fiction, because "it's set in Prince Edward Island, and that's a real place, isn't it?" I even loved helping the people who were convinced that we were hiding Unfit For Command in the back, not believing that the publisher had only printed 55,000 copies.

There were moments I hated my job, and eventually the stress outweighed the joy, and I left. First, though, I got to work with some outstanding people. I'm happy for them that they, for the most part, saw the end coming and have moved on. I won't miss Borders Inc., but I'll miss Borders, and Store 94.

.

P.S. US HIST analysis geeks represent!
posted by booksherpa at 7:26 PM on July 18, 2011 [28 favorites]


And listen, I love libraries - I should hope so, as I was a librarian - but many libraries don't have the selection that one can browse at a large chain bookstore. You can special order them, sure, but you have to know what you want to order first obviously. Libraries have budgets and they will order the NYT best sellers before they consider ordering that quirky little novel that no one has really heard of yet but is sitting on the new releases shelf at the book store. Just waiting for you to pick up out of curiosity.
posted by Windigo at 7:32 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I doubt the workplace has much in common, though.

No, it doesn't. A Visit to the Warehouse of Soul-Crushing Sadness
posted by zabuni at 7:53 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I used to work for Borders and feel pretty "meh" about this. I specifically worked in the café and we were constantly asked whether or not we sold just regular Cokes. No, no we did not.

Once I saw a cooler full of Cokes at the register (about three years after I stopped working there), I knew it was over. It's not really a good business model to sell the one thing you can get literally anywhere else in the mall just because a bunch of people bug you about it.

I'm proud to say that I left before the tchotchkes completely took over.

I feel like a vulture for saying this, but I've been putting off buying tons of children's books for my infant son as we're moving soon and now... I'm totally going to swoop in and see what I can get for cheap.
posted by sonika at 7:53 PM on July 18, 2011


I used to live in the New York City area. [...] The Strand is actually kind of depressing in a lot of ways, because the place really needs a huge renovation and reworking

It sounds like maybe you haven't been to the Strand since its huge renovation and reworking (ca. 2005).
posted by RogerB at 7:54 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Small, independent bookstores will weather the economy and new technology in the places where they already seem to be, relatively speaking, thriving: small affluent blue-state towns (Berkshires-type places) and college towns, and maybe one per every quarter-million or so people in major cities. These are areas where people will pay a premium to patronize independent bookstores, if not in price then in convenience. Independent bookstores these days are primarily for people who value them in themselves, for their aesthetic and political and social qualities, like bike lanes, or old trees

i call bs, along with the whole "this will help mom and pops" lie that seems to be going around. I live in a 'college town', and know where the closest bookstore is? Over half an hour drive away in the twin cities. Before the borders closes, it's 20 minutes away. There was a used bookstore here in town around 2002 before i moved here, it's now a sports clothing store.

Borders and B&N and such didn't kill mom and pops, it's mostly amazon and themselves that killed them. The Mom and Pops have to charge more than amazon, and tend to only have "certain" books which agree with their beliefs. I've had issues going into these supposedly great mom and pops, and being treated like crap for asking for books or subjects. I will miss Borders way more than any mom and pops that i've been in that have been closed. :P
posted by usagizero at 8:05 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


mullingitover: "I wouldn't mind e-books completely replacing their analog counterparts. Having just moved to a new apartment, and nearly throwing my back out thanks to the weight of dead trees, I won't miss the heft of analog. A thousand books in a device that weighs 600 grams makes a compelling argument.

I also won't miss the unforgivable lack of ctrl+f.
"

Well good for you. I'm sure that the fact that you don't want to move books around is a solid reason to stop selling them.

Myself, I love physical books. I have multiple hundreds of them. And each time that I re-read one, I am always reminded of the last time I read it. Some of the books I own were gifts. And so I remember the person that gave it to me. Some of the books I own I first read when I was a child. And so they have chocolate fingerprints on some pages. From when I read them while having a snack before bed time.

Some of them actually have notes about girlfriends in the past, or phone numbers.

Yes I wrote in books.

It's like a past me talking to a future me.

There is nostalgia in my books.

I recently found the end of a joint (weed for those out of the loop) in a copy of the second book of the Illuminatus! Trilogy. It was from the time that I lent the Trilogy to a hooker that I worked with at a strip joint.

She eventually quit the business to join her boyfriend in Iowa. I don't imagine in any way that the books did it. But I hope she's doing better now.

Physical books are a wonderful thing. And they hold volumes more than just the written words. If that's your thing, I guess. It certainly is my thing.

You use what you use. You enjoy your Kindle or whatever. I will open an old book, I will smell the book smell. I will look for old train tickets, a hair from an old flame, a hastily written phone number. Perhaps the place where an ex-girlfriend used a blue eyeliner pencil to hold her place.

I will rejoice in it.
posted by Splunge at 8:09 PM on July 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


.
posted by heyho at 8:11 PM on July 18, 2011


I took out my copy of the Illuminatus! Trilogy a year or two ago and found some blotters in it! They were not from a hooker.

I found Borders useful, but not as engaging and lovely as smaller bookstores.

Any time I go on a trip, or stop in a new town, I go to whatever bookstore is around, and I always buy a book. When I was a kid it was fantasy fiction and AD&D modules, now it's more nonfiction and poetry . . . but I am constitutionally incapable of going into a bookstore and not buying something.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:14 PM on July 18, 2011


As some who spent my youth biking to the local Borders with my allowance, I'll certainly miss it. Amazon is all well and good now that I have a credit card, but where is the next generation of 12 year-olds going to get their science-fiction paperbacks?
posted by kingoftonga86 at 8:18 PM on July 18, 2011


You can blame Borders and Barnes & Noble for destroying independent bookstores if you want, but at least those independent bookstores were being replaced with other bookstores. Borders is being replaced with nothing. As far as the independent bookstores that have managed to stay afloat in my area (Philadelphia/suburbs), if Borders is going under, I can't believe the independent stores will really be able to make it.

Personally, I have no intention of ever getting an eReading gizmo. I want physical books, and I'm not hopping on that bandwagon. While I love the few local independent bookstores left, they really couldn't ever compete with Borders on selection and price, and neither could ever compete with Amazon. I support independent bookstores in theory, but when they don't have the books I'm looking for and when the price is more than double Borders, I always headed to Borders first. I understand that they're in dire straits financially, but, so, too, are many of their customers.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:25 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


What I don't understand is how it's economical for B&N (and perhaps it wasn't economical for Borders) to basically operate as a giant free library. Dozens of people sit all around the B&N stores I go to, particularly in the cafe, and just read B&N books and magazines for free.

I mean -- it's great. It's a public service. It's air-conditioned, clean, well-lighted, attractive, convenient. Independent bookstores typically do not give anywhere close to the same degree of comfort. I think it's way underappreciated. But does it make economic sense?
posted by shivohum at 8:30 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Libraries have budgets and they will order the NYT best sellers before they consider ordering that quirky little novel that no one has really heard of yet but is sitting on the new releases shelf at the book store. Just waiting for you to pick up out of curiosity.

The big chain bookstores stock this? What I see on the "new releases" counter is usually a combination of "Now! A Major Motion Picture," "I'm a celebrity," and James Patterson, usually represented as both the new YA and new suspense.

I don't know what the solution here is, but a big chain store which often won't even stock all of Jane Austen or unabridged Dumas doesn't strike me our Library of Alexandria.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:30 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I spent well over a decade as the inventory manager of a Borders-affiliate (see, back in the day, when the first wave of Borders alumni left A2 and went out into the world, Borders created a wholesaling division--BIS[Book Inventory System]--which allowed access to Borders the state-of-the-art buying system and inventory control to a select few, who opened and ran "independent" stores). It was the best job I ever had and most of the people I love in this world who are not directly related to me, I met there. So, while I do not mourn the demise of Borders Corporate, I do mourn the financial refuge and intellectual stimulation working in a Borders gave so many of us otherwise marginally employable English Majors and Musicians and Classicists. It was like a second education for many, and one even got paid (badly)!
posted by Chrischris at 8:31 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I remember how awestruck I was when I walked into my first Borders. After years of relying on what I could scavenge in used bookstores and crappy selection at places like Crown Books, it was like seeing heaven.
posted by PussKillian at 8:32 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I helped open a Borders in Boston. They had a beautiful space, a bunch of shelves, and boxes of books arriving daily. They said they wanted independent thinkers, book lovers who could work unsupervised and solve problems creatively. Once the store opened, we were supposed to be worker bees who followed instructions and did what we were told. A year later, they had replaced almost everyone, including me.

It was too bad; I liked it. The store was a gorgeous old renovated bank with high ceilings and big windows. It's hard not to like being surrounded by books in a pretty building.
posted by swerve at 8:42 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


what a bummer. :( i love borders.

i haven't bought books in ages, mostly because i don't have disposable income. however, i'd never own an e-reader. i don't like klutzy plastic junk things. i like books. i like the way books smell, new and old. i like feeling pages in my fingers, and i like when old binding crumbles through the years. i like the notes people leave in used books you find, and i like letting friends borrow them.
posted by thistle at 8:43 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The big chain bookstores stock this?

Borders had a monthly program called Original Voices that gave front of store placement precisely to these kinds of titles, changing them out on a monthly basis (until the last year or so when the change out schedule became erratic and the number of titles in the program plummeted). I think B&N has a similar feature called Discover New Writers or something like that.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:43 PM on July 18, 2011



Unorganized thoughts on Borders, books, libraries, and kindling:
  • The original Borders on State Street -- when it was a local book store -- was one of the two things I didn't hate about Ann Arbor. (The other was the Michigan Theater.)  
  • Fast wind to 2000 or so in another town, the local Borders seemed to specialize in loudly playing music designed to prevent reading, thought, and reflection.  
  • I don't know anything about their management or business practices, but I observed that gradually, in each section, the number of physical books shrank until the store carried only the most obvious titles.  
  • On the other hand the local library, in fifteen years, has not once had a single book or film I inquired about. The one copy in the whole system is always held downtown.  
  • Meanwhiile, back at Borders: "But I can order it for you. . ." Sister, if I have to order it, I'm not going to order it from inside a bookstore.  
  • The going rate for used books online is, with few exceptions, $1.99. Once you take out the aggregator's commission and shipping costs, it's cheaper to keep 'em, maybe try selling 'em at garage sale. Margins must be waeffer-thin for brick-and-mortar, too.  
  • I will say this about Borders over some local bookstores: Their books never smell like a litter box. (Why it's deemed cool to have cats living in a bookstore is beyond me.)  
  • I can't actually think of a single bookstore locally that was apparently put out of business by big box bookstores. Revolution Books and Mac's Backs seem still to be breathing.  
  • Around 1969 or so, I bought a copy of Dune at Waldenbooks. The cover had a sticker that said, "Soon to be a major motion picture!"  
  • As to Kindles, et al, I will only say that they have a long way to go to fully replace the experience of physical books. Maybe ten percent of the way there.
posted by Herodios at 8:46 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It does sound like Borders was mostly responsible for its own demise.

However, the paper book market will shrink, because while some people love paper books (as this thread indicates), plenty of us prefer e-books. This is not bad, it's just normal technological change. The market for LPs has shrunk quite a bit too, because most people prefer the convenience of MP3 players over the nostalgia of a record (which may have handwritten notes, and been gifted by a friend, and have a coffee stain from a night 10 years ago, and all the things people talk about with books, since it too is a physical object). So there will be fewer bookstores, and/or smaller ones, because fewer people will want to buy paper books.

I already prefer e-Books to real ones (for many reasons -- storage, travel, weight, etc) and they will get significantly better as the tech continues to improve (consider an iPod vs the first couple generations of MP3 players).
posted by wildcrdj at 8:49 PM on July 18, 2011


Well, libraries ain't what they used to be either. They've been forced to provide what their respective local communities want. Like multiple copies of bestsellers and a roof for homeless people.

Lemme tell you my library story: My friend was driving down the alley behind our local town's big old public library, when he spotted a flatbed dumpster loaded with books. All giant hardcovers with the same binding. Guess what they were. They were a complete PATENT LIBRARY, huge yearly volumes listing every single patent ever granted in the U.S., up to the current year. And they filled the dumpster half way up. A mound of books. My friend filled his VW bus twice with the oldest volumes and took them home. Then when he returned a third time the dumpster was gone, apparently to be emptied at the landfill. But the books rescued! The books were wonderful, filled with engravings and illustrations of every single thing ever patented in this country, that apparently no one ever referenced, because the local public library had dissolved it's reference section and disposed of it, as the Internet was on the rise, and those books sure took up a lot of room. I suppose I can always view the patent stuff on Google or a website or a Kindle or whatnot, but it sure was fun literally building chairs out of the volumes and paging through them, showing each other discovered weird devices and inventions over a can of beer. So it goes.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 8:49 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Libraries and large commercial bookstore are good entry points for children. I knew they were for me.

The smaller independents came into play the older I got.

Everywhere I travel I search for an independent bookstore with a coffeehouse nearby. This becomes my hub during the stay. In St. Louis this took some doing on a recent trip. I've got my go to places in every major city. They are all going to be around for awhile because they are supported by their communities and seem to value the value of what they do.

I think the mom-and-pops are going to be re-invisioned. Starbucks et al were supposed to destroy old-style coffeehouses. Seems they did for awhile. Now I am seeing a lot of them thriving again.

I don't think paper books are going to go away. I am getting and I-Pad soon. I want both for all the reasons everyone is describing in the thread.
posted by goalyeehah at 9:02 PM on July 18, 2011


This is a disaster for authors and publishers, as well. Borders was something like 168 million dollars in the hole to distributors and publishers when they went into reorganization; they've continued to order books since then while trying to keep the stores open.

Unfortunately, in publishing, they don't pay X fee up front and get Z number of books, and then the books belong to them. They order Z number of books, return the ones they can't sell, and then pay for the sold copies.

In this case, Borders had 168 million dollars in outstanding royalties due to the distributors and publishers in January. Every book they've ordered since, every book they have sold since, they aren't paying for either.

Some publishers have asked them to return all their stock before they liquidate, since the books don't technically belong to them. Unfortunately, they can't make Borders return them, so...

Industry gossip says that the publishers and distributors will write those books off as a loss, and the authors will be instructed to do the same. Those sales will never be counted on our royalty statements, which means for those of us who had a big presence in Borders, may mean we will never earn out our advance.

This means we will never get a royalty check because we still technically owe the publisher money. But worse than that, that low sales record will be figured into the Profit & Loss sheets the publishers do when considering buying future books.

It won't really matter that Borders went under, and our books "underperformed" because we can't count those sales. All that will matter is that our books "underperformed." And for an already shrinking midlist, losing those Borders sales may mean a LOT of authors losing their careers entirely.
posted by headspace at 9:03 PM on July 18, 2011 [16 favorites]


No, it doesn't. A Visit to the Warehouse of Soul-Crushing Sadness
posted by zabuni at 7:53 PM on July 18 [3 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]

Jesus. Race to the bottom and everything.
posted by gc at 9:03 PM on July 18, 2011


OK, here's my obit for $BGPIQ.PK.

Their Architecture section was pathetic, everywhere. It was really driven by the housing bubble and cliches, featuring lots of books about single family homes, and trivia about Frank Lloyd Wright. And books on new hotels and spas, a tiny smidgeon of urban planning, and then you hit Christianity. But behind the Architecture were music song and chord books and after a few years, when I took up guitar again, all of sudden this section was really interesting to me (and I would sometimes - with minimal guilt - buy a chord book or song book, copy what I wanted, and return it a week later). And the Music section connected to photography which I would look over. It was ok, and it kept me in that area while I made up my mind between Neil Young songs and Rolling Stones Early years. But then when some odd interest sprang up, I could always find at least some smattering of books, and some really good.. on whales or ships or railroads. And I could stay for awhile figuring our how they had the History section - which was large - sorted out. Biographies in alphabetical order, Wars by century, military subjects by weaponry. It was large. I also ALWAYS bought my yearly calendars there later in January when they were kind of picked over, but not entirely.

Well, I could go on like this. But I could also say most of this took place 3-5 years ago. After that, I just memorized for $AMZN, then I scanned for $AMZN. Then I stopped going because that Architecture section drove me crazy, I had given up guitar, I owned all their whale and ship books, their cd's were expensive and pathetic and listening bar I dunno... infected? And then the last time I went - maybe a year ago - it was like visiting someone who has cancer, and you know they are in endgame. It looked like no books were being replaced. In a place that was once crowded and buzzing, it was now sort of threadbare and larger than usual people space all about. And that was it, I knew it was going BK and my interest simply turned to shorting the equity (which was profitable).

So they were great, but ultimately unsustainable. So was the Five and Ten and A&P and Blockbuster. This is the way $RIMM will be going, in case you don't know it. Maybe in 2014 we'll have a nostalgic crackberry thread. Anyway, sigh.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 9:07 PM on July 18, 2011




Meanwhiile, back at Borders: "But I can order it for you. . ." Sister, if I have to order it, I'm not going to order it from inside a bookstore.

Didn't they eventually arrive at the idea of shipping *to your house*? That is... won't they offer to ship it to your home rather than the store for a small fee?
posted by weston at 9:16 PM on July 18, 2011


Luddite here. Watching the music industry in slo-mo self-destruct mode for twenty years was not fun, but this is more serious.

Personally, a couple of hundred CD's will last me most of my life. I'll buy a few new ones every couple of months from my local independent CD store (which has been revitalized, ironically, by vinyl - Denver's Twist and Shout.) I just listen to music through the air. No earbuds. Now, when I was in my 20's, I listened to music all the time, so I understand I'm an old guy in the discussion. Now, silence is fine, unless I'm playing music myself. Times have changed for me.

And I read books the old-fashioned way: and we all know the arguments, although the ubiquitous "smell of new/old books" has nothing to do with it.

Still, to watch physical books and bookstores take such a beating so fast is disconcerting for book lovers, let me tell you. As one who has friends and relatives in the industry, it is all the more saddening.

Don't forget: as technological platforms change, information gets lost. Clay tablets and paper books last a long long time, though.
posted by kozad at 9:19 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Industry gossip says that the publishers and distributors will write those books off as a loss, and the authors will be instructed to do the same. Those sales will never be counted on our royalty statements, which means for those of us who had a big presence in Borders, may mean we will never earn out our advance.

Sad. You can bet your ass that folks like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, etc. (or their lawyers) will be on the phone to their publishers demanding that any inventory still in Borders' hands come Saturday AM is to be counted as "sold" in regards to royalties. Which will put the squeeze on the publishers (one would image that there are literally hundreds of thousands of Harry Potter books still on shelves in Borders stores) from both ends. Just desserts, I think, for the publishing industry's inability (or unwillingness) to give up the old retail model....
posted by Chrischris at 9:19 PM on July 18, 2011


Some of my favorite meetings were on the NYC subway when I was reading a book. I met a wonderful Wiccan lady while reading Magick in Theory and Practice by Crowley. As well I me a very nice young man who asked about the picture on the cover of a Lensman book by EE Doc Smith.

Now I know that anecdata about meeting strangers on a train isn't necessarily the greatest way to champion the physical book.

But hell, isn't it fun?

I also still mourn for B. Dalton.

And sometimes the wife and I go to the Barnes and Noble in Park Slope. We go there because it's not about the buying so much. It's about the being there. We wander in and wander around. Sometimes she buys a book. Usually not. But I have to buy books once in a book store.

I get the next book in a series, usually science fiction. Maybe David Drake. Maybe Ian McDonald. Maybe a book that I'd never in a million years think of buying.

And all the time tripping over annoying people who don't quite understand the difference between a bookstore and their bedroom.

The last time I was at B&N I was walking with a cane. Sometimes my leg gets bad. Especially when I've walked too much the day before. I took this chance to remove everyone from their prone positions on the floor. I would walk along and look up while carefully swinging my cane at legs and feet.

Yeah I'm a dick. Sue me.

Then we took my purchases and had overpriced coffee (and over roasted as well) at a table at the built in Starbucks there.

I love a trip to B&N. It's fun. YMMV.
posted by Splunge at 9:27 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Coliseum (RIP) was the go-to indie for genre fiction in NYC. Now it's McNallyJackson.


I don't mind patronizing different bookstores for various work; right now my favorite places are McN-J, the Strand, St. Marks, Shakespeare&co and the Drama Bookstore.
posted by brujita at 9:30 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.

That statistic is not on the website it is claimed to be sourced from. I suspect it is made up, like 58% of all unsourced statistics on the Internet.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:31 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


That statistic is not on the website it is claimed to be sourced from. I suspect it is made up, like 58% of all unsourced statistics on the Internet.

I've met a frightening number of well-educated people who claim to not read books because they read "too much" in high school and/or university. 58% sounds rather high, but not unbelievable.
posted by cmonkey at 9:35 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay. How many margaritas will it take to wipe this from my memory? Cause I'm going to try and find out.

Okay, the answer is seven. Until you check the goddamn metafilter on your phone! I'm now an inebriated Luddite. Thanks a lot, internets.

(I still love you; I'm dumb.)

On preview:
That statistic is not on the website it is claimed to be sourced from. I suspect it is made up, like 58% of all unsourced statistics on the Internet.

Everything is awesome and I'm drunk! That's what I call a win-win!
posted by notion at 9:36 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94: "I suspect it is made up, like 58% of all unsourced statistics on the Internet."

Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forty percent of all people know that.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:45 PM on July 18, 2011


A sign outside the Borders in Uptown this past April.

Wow, I am now rooting for Borders to go even more under.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:48 PM on July 18, 2011


And here's the next snag: most of this unsold product will be returned to the publishers. Virtually all book trade product is fully returnable if in resalable condition. Imagine what this is going to do to the bottom lines of marginal publishers -- of which there are a helluva lot these days.

When Chapters* (the large Canadian chain at the time, before they were bought out by Indigo, forming one larger chain) opened a couple of dozen huge stores across the country in the late 90s, they bought a shitload of product. Not much more than a year later, they returned a shitload of product. They'd gotten people into their stores, killed many an indie bookstore, and no longer needed to stock 'one of everything and two hundred of the best sellers'. It almost killed the Canadian publishing industry. Analysts still scratch their heads about how it survived.

Borders owes something like $200 million to its largest unsecured creditors. That's potentially devastating and makes the Chapters returns look like peanuts (estimated to be in the $20-$30M range). But what's potentially worse is all the smaller publishers who aren't in the Big Seven and can expect to see palletloads of backstock show up on their doorsteps, instead of cheques.

This is at the very least going to force publishers to be much more cautious in how they do business. Smaller advances, worse terms for authors, author-publisher contracts that mandate delivery dates with penalties. Authors will not get royalties from returned books. Many authors may be forced into other jobs. Publisher sales terms will be much more strict; indie stores won't be able to carry a balance like they used to, which means smaller inventories and less ability to compete with Amazon.

Borders closing is, to be frank, good for nobody except Amazon.

*Borders actually tried to break into the Canadian market, first by investing in Chapters and then by trying to open their own stores here. Both plans were turned down by the Canadian government on cultural grounds.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 9:53 PM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Borders closing is, to be frank, good for nobody except Amazon.

This is an emotional roller coaster. I am in a glass case of emotion. And tequila. And roller coasters.
posted by notion at 10:16 PM on July 18, 2011


Analysts still scratch their heads about how it survived.

I should point out that Canadian publishers get subsidized by Heritage Canada, who helped with the year 2000 returns of nearly half of Chapter's stock, but the damage should by all accounts have been much worse.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 10:19 PM on July 18, 2011


Notice how there are no bad music stores or video stores anymore, because all the bad ones went out of business?

Same thing's happening with books. In the (near) future, you won't go to a bookstore simply because you want to buy a book. You'll go to a bookstore because there's a bookstore you want to go to.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:20 PM on July 18, 2011


And here's the next snag: most of this unsold product will be returned to the publishers. Virtually all book trade product is fully returnable if in resalable condition. Imagine what this is going to do to the bottom lines of marginal publishers -- of which there are a helluva lot these days.

If I'm not mistaken, isn't current industry practice to strip the cover or a key page inside unsold books and magazines, send that to the publishers, then trash/pulp the remainder of the product?
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:26 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I'm not mistaken, isn't current industry practice to strip the cover or a key page inside unsold books and magazines, send that to the publishers, then trash/pulp the remainder of the product?

For mass-market paperbacks and magazines this is usually (but not always) the case. Trade paperback and hardcovers are sent back whole.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 10:33 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really hope independent and used bookstores are managing to stay afloat

I really hope that losing corporate warehouses revivifies the small concern with the person who knows your name and what you'll like that's new. And keeps things back for you. And has a chair and a coffeepot. You know: civilization.
posted by Twang at 10:39 PM on July 18, 2011


If I'm not mistaken, isn't current industry practice to strip the cover or a key page inside unsold books and magazines, send that to the publishers, then trash/pulp sell the remainder of the product through a third party?
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:40 PM on July 18, 2011


When Chapters* (the large Canadian chain at the time, before they were bought out by Indigo, forming one larger chain) opened a couple of dozen huge stores across the country in the late 90s, they bought a shitload of product. Not much more than a year later, they returned a shitload of product. They'd gotten people into their stores, killed many an indie bookstore, and no longer needed to stock 'one of everything and two hundred of the best sellers'. It almost killed the Canadian publishing industry. Analysts still scratch their heads about how it survived.

On a tangential topic, I still spit venom whenever I remember how Microsoft did nearly the same thing with their Win 95 release. They strong-armed all the vendors to overload on copies, which drained all the open-to-buy dollars out of the publishing chain. Many small publishing houses like ours found themselves unable to get buy-ins anywhere for the quarter leading up to the release. Then when it didn't sell as well as the stock on hand, the many returns from vendors meant that vendors had less-than-normal open-to-buy dollars for the following quarter, as well.

Our firm ended up limping through that year on life support. A lot of the smaller publishing and development houses weren't so lucky. Damn Microsoft.

/tangential business model derail
posted by darkstar at 11:06 PM on July 18, 2011


OK, indie book stores and cats, the fact is bookstore get mice, cats eat mice and even when they don't, that litter--box smell terrifies mice, usually.
I had a Borders gift card, love how well meaning people give gift cards that won't cover ONE purchase, and which you can't use in the coffee shop uuuurm...,
I used it quickly. I saw this coming two years ago. I liked loitering in the coffee shop over a latte and something to eat, at least a latte, while my friend chased her worthless x-bf and her cranky kid around the way too expensive and breaky toys. For awhile they were one of the few good places to go online. I could take as long as I liked. The library has wait times. They have generally a lot of terminals used by people who don't have the luxury of going to a coffee shop with a lap top, or an iPod. I only used the library computers when I had no choice.
I suspect more people go to the library for computer access than for books at this point. I can't haul tons of books home. They hardly are in my budget anymore and I live in a small place. I read my books, then unless they are rare and special they go on the shelf so other people can read them. I still love books and reading, it's just gotten to be physically too much to deal with books sometimes. They are heavy, even paperbacks. I can't lie down to read them. So I have gotten into free e-books. I probably will actually buy some. I as others mentioned have a mess of books in my pocket, I can read them in the dark. In some ways it is better. Not all ways, but some. You sure can't bullet-proof a place with e-books. In my crappy neighborhood, that could be important. You don't know about the shootings.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:20 PM on July 18, 2011


I won't miss Borders much myself, but my in-laws live in a country town where the only Angus & Robertson (bought out by Borders here in Oz) has shut down. Now they've got the choice of K-mart, Target, or downloading e-books over dialup onto technology they don't really understand.

I hope a good used bookstore pops up there soon. Or even a combo new/used one (is that allowed?)
posted by harriet vane at 12:28 AM on July 19, 2011


One top reason why Borders apparently went bust: in a 238+ comment thread, not a single comment pointing out that Borders did in fact get into the ebook business, albeit a bit late. They had teamed up with, and invested in Kobo.

Now, I'm thinking Kobo itself would be safe for now, mostly coz they've teamed up with Indigo in Canada, but only so much: Borders, and Borders.com is the primary channel through which they sell their readers in the US. It's difficult to say that there won't be _any_ impact.
posted by the cydonian at 1:29 AM on July 19, 2011


Second-hand anecdote: Years ago I know someone who worked for Waldenbooks, which was owned by Borders. At the end of one fiscal year, I was told that I was told that the Waldenbooks arm of the company taken by itself was very profitable, but the Borders portion ... not so much.

So what did Borders do? Study and learn from the more profitable portion of the company? Apply the lessons learned to the other parts of the company to shore things up and improve business?

Nope. They spent money rebranding all the Waldenbooks stores as "Borders Express". Oh and then they closed some of those stores, including ones that were making money.

Definitely deserved to go out of business.
posted by Potsy at 1:37 AM on July 19, 2011


I feel sorry all the people obsessed with wandering around book stores, because clearly they've never been told about libraries...

My local library, a mile away, is open only 3 days a week, has a tiny selection of books (fine if you like 20-year-old Catherine Cookson or Wilbur Smith titles, but nothing new, there isn't the budget to buy new books), it closes at 5 and has nowhere to park, unless I want to pay £9 to park in the public car park next door (which has 18 spaces). The 'big' library 5 miles away also closes at five, and it costs £1.40 to park for an hour, with eagle-eyed traffic wardens slapping a ticket on for just a second over the clock. So even if I could get there at a time convenient to me, I'd rather spend the money used for parking to buy books.

The 'libraries' in the borough where I work have been re-branded as 'Idea Stores' and are full of magazines, computer terminals and very little in the way of books.
posted by essexjan at 2:39 AM on July 19, 2011


Second-hand anecdote: Years ago I know someone who worked for Waldenbooks, which was owned by Borders. At the end of one fiscal year, I was told that I was told that the Waldenbooks arm of the company taken by itself was very profitable, but the Borders portion ... not so much.

So what did Borders do? Study and learn from the more profitable portion of the company? Apply the lessons learned to the other parts of the company to shore things up and improve business?

Nope. They spent money rebranding all the Waldenbooks stores as "Borders Express". Oh and then they closed some of those stores, including ones that were making money.


Double nope: by the time the Borders Express rebranding idea came around Waldens was suffering from a huge decline in sales as the mall segment started tanking: this was around the same time that B&N killed off their mall chain B. Dalton if memory serves. Borders Express was an attempt to improve sales as the Borders brand was perceived to be much more attractive. Didn't work, and the idea was abandoned after a year or so.

That said, there was a period when Waldens was the cash cow that propped up Borders, particularly during the period when Borders was expanding like crazy, but those days were long gone by the time of Borders Express.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:28 AM on July 19, 2011


What I don't understand is how it's economical for B&N (and perhaps it wasn't economical for Borders) to basically operate as a giant free library. Dozens of people sit all around the B&N stores I go to, particularly in the cafe, and just read B&N books and magazines for free. --- In recent years, my local big box book stores are actually trying to discourage this sort of behavior. They've removed all of the plush leather easy chairs and people have resorted to sitting/sprawling on the floors, which makes navigating all that much harder. I'm not sure if they did it to discourage vagrants or what.
posted by crunchland at 4:28 AM on July 19, 2011


I feel quite lucky-- not only have I moved to the Atlanta area, where the libraries are large and well-funded, but I just signed a book contract with an indie press in Canada. Let's hope Chapters/Indigo continues to do okay...

More seriously, I remember loving Borders back in '99-00, when I moved down to Southern California. The Borders in Glendale was fine-- I quite liked its SF/fantasy section-- but the store in Pasadena was even better, with a great selection in all genres and friendly staff (and an amazing children's book section too). But then, as the years passed, I could see, with my own eyes, the decline of this once mighty chain. The Glendale store became a cavernous tchotchke store, and the Pasadena store went out of business last year. I knew then Borders was doomed.

RIP Borders... let's hope used and indie bookstores don't all go belly-up over the next few generations. I'm not sure I want to live in a world with nothing but holobooks.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 5:00 AM on July 19, 2011


This picture is the state street store as I remember it in 1980.
posted by JohnR at 5:04 AM on July 19, 2011


There are some depressing library comments in this thread. My local library has a wonderful new book section, and 90% of my reading is done by picking books almost at random from that section - there's always something unexpected and interesting. I've done this, more or less, since I got my first library card almost 40 years ago. I pay library fines with a smile. In fact, I think my subconscious purposely keeps me from returning things on time just so I can support the library. 95% of the books I buy are gifts. In conclusion, I have apparently become old.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 5:11 AM on July 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Lemme tell you my library story: My friend was driving down the alley behind our local town's big old public library, when he spotted a flatbed dumpster loaded with books. All giant hardcovers with the same binding. Guess what they were. They were a complete PATENT LIBRARY, huge yearly volumes listing every single patent ever granted in the U.S., up to the current year.

Book are just books. Librarians see them every day. They take up massive amounts of space, which libraries are almost always out of. This information can now be found in digital format, and libraries are moving toward the future, not sitting in the dark, grasping their collections of books close to their chest, weeping for the "good ol' days."


Information will still be needed, books will still be read for pleasure. The format will change. Librarians know that.
posted by bradth27 at 6:26 AM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


What a magnificent store Borders once was, 20 years ago, before being sold to Kmart, or whoever it was who handed them over to MBAs. It was among the best I've ever seen for depth and variety of, well, everything: new releases, periodicals, foreign language, academic subjects. I'll mourn for that store, not for the ones that are now being closed.
posted by thelonius at 6:45 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


B&N killed off their mall chain B. Dalton

B.Dalton was originally part of the Dayton-Hudson Company (what is now Target when the family of the current MN governor was running it) and had many freestanding stores...which included the sites of my grandfather's Pickwick Bookshop. The only mall sites Grampa had when he sold it were at Topanga Plaza and Del Amo.
posted by brujita at 7:24 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel like I should be bothered by this, but I'm not (other than the mass of employees who are losing their jobs). I've wandered into Borders, B&N, etc. off and on for the past few years, and I've always come out with nothing in hand. Why? The selection isn't half as good as Amazon's, and the prices are often nearly double. The vast majority of my book "finds" are via LibraryThing / Amazon recommendations, plus plain old keyword searches. I suppose part of me is supposed to loathe Amazon solely because it's a giant corporation, but you know what? I love Amazon. Great prices, great customer service, great selection.

I've also come around to the idea of ebooks, at least for some things. I held out for a long time - I do love books just for their bookishness, and I've got shelves lined with them. But the fact is, some books are just easier to deal with in electronic format. Most of my "fun" reading stuff is going to the Kindle these days, simply because I'm going to read it once and never again. Why let it take up space on my shelf for the next 50 years? For other things - history, language learning materials - hard copy is still best, if not absolutely required.
posted by menschlich at 7:26 AM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Still trying to reconcile all the positive comments about Borders with my so far unshakable view of the chain as a dull, uninspiring place with down-market junk. I could browse for a half-hour and find nothing -- not a thing -- to buy, in contrast to going to just about any other bookstore and coming away with six, 12, 18 books at a time.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:44 AM on July 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Didn't they eventually arrive at the idea of shipping *to your house*? That is... won't they offer to ship it to your home rather than the store for a small fee?

Barnes & Noble does this now, if you have their whatamacallit, loyalty card. And it's free. My kids and I like to visit our local B&N because it has a very nice kids' section, fun escalators, and a cafe, and being able to order at the counter and have it shipped home for free has gotten them a couple of sales that might have gone to Amazon Marketplace instead.
posted by not that girl at 7:47 AM on July 19, 2011


Book are just books.

And air is just air.
posted by aught at 7:50 AM on July 19, 2011


Like Huron Bob, I fondly remember the expansion of the State Street Borders when I was in grad school in the early ‘90s. A few years later they opened what I believe was their first satellite store in Beverly Hills [Michigan!] just a few miles from where I lived. Again, we felt so lucky to have them in the neighborhood. A couple happy memories:

The Beverly Hills store is where I got to meet, and pin a microphone on, Garrison Keillor, who we were interviewing for local news. He called me “Kiddo”!

At a late-night book signing at the Liberty Street store, I offered my doggy bag from dinner at Zanzibar to Alton Brown, who eagerly grabbed it from me before I could finish saying “would you like some BBQ brisket?”
posted by Cheezitsofcool at 8:45 AM on July 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Librarian here who came for the schadenfreude (and, yes, I love books, bookstores both big and small, and the people who work at them (at least the ones who are good at and enthusiastic about their jobs--my sincere sympathies to those who lost them)) because, like box, I've had people smugly inform me that my days in my profession were numbered because they could kick back with a frappuchino* and read without having to buy anything, and stayed to follow up on some of the library comments. A big chunk of my job is outreach and promotion, and it's always a little dismaying how many people--including regular library users--don't know about a lot of pretty standard library services.

So, when I see a comment by someone like Herodios who complains that the book or video that he wants is almost always at the main branch, I wonder if he knows that he can probably request that it be sent to his local branch. (His system may not have that service, but every multi-location library system that I've ever worked at or been a patron of has it.) I wonder if people know that, even if their local library doesn't own a copy themselves, they may be able to borrow it through interlibrary loan. I wonder if Ron Thanagar knows how expensive it is to build extra space to house things like that lovely old patent collection, since libraries have to be built with floors that can handle the weight of all those books, plus pretty good climate control, fire prevention systems, insect control, etc., and very few library systems have that kind of budget these days. I wonder if essexjan knows that the time to support a library is before the hours get cut and the acquisition budget gets cut and their redundant library staff has to move away to find an increasingly-rare librarian job opening. (And, no, this isn't a call-out of the individual MeFites that I've mentioned; it's certainly possible that you may already know these things and the services that I mentioned just aren't available in your area or you were an advocate for your library and the budget got cut anyway or they should have thrown out more Danielle Steel or Tom Clancy books to keep the patent volumes, etc.) And I wonder how well their libraries have promoted some of these things.

*Incidentally, some of the worst baristas I've ever been served by have been in Borders and Barnes & Noble.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:46 AM on July 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


And, in general, even if your library doesn't have the collection that the bookstore does, or lacks a spiffy little caffeine recharging station, or is busy swapping dead trees for silicon, consider it as an essential back-up system for when some bright-eyed MBA-toting son of a bitch gets behind the wheel of your local bookslinger and sets the controls for the heart of the sun.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:52 AM on July 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Shelf Awareness has a pretty good story on the closings.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:07 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Notice how there are no bad music stores or video stores anymore, because all the bad ones went out of business?

Same thing's happening with books. In the (near) future, you won't go to a bookstore simply because you want to buy a book. You'll go to a bookstore because there's a bookstore you want to go to.


Actually, where I live there are no music or video stores. Period. I hope that doesn't happen to books.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:10 AM on July 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks to all mefites sharing thier memories of Boarders, pre-expansion and post.

If i were in the business, I would try and re-create that original store, impossible as that may seem.
posted by clavdivs at 9:32 AM on July 19, 2011


I could browse for a half-hour and find nothing -- not a thing -- to buy

How is that even possible? Unless you only read books about *insert dusty, obscure hobby/academic topic/out-of-print author oddity here*, I wonder at the concept that in a store of thousands of books you couldn't find a single thing to read. I think you must not have been trying really hard?
posted by Windigo at 9:46 AM on July 19, 2011


Quite easily, Windigo. Number one culprit: Large parts of the store given over to stationery, toys, knick-knacks, calendars, and movie tie-ins. Number two culprit: Big displays of expensive hardcover potboilers that I could read at a speed that would cost me eight dollars an hour but would give little pleasure. Third culprit: Long shelves of how-to and self-help books that oversell ideas better rendered as pamphlets.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:28 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is Barnes & Nobel still in good shape? It would appear so judging by my immediate area, which would point the finger of blame more towards management than e-books etc.

I love my local B&N, but more for DVDs than books, oddly.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:31 AM on July 19, 2011


Could someone clarify the liquidation for me? The 'scenes' link in the FPP describes the liquidation of a store as part of what I assume was their reduction of locations earlier in the year, and their inventory was sold to the public. Yet yesterday's letter from the president of Borders makes it sound to me like they're just closing their stores for good and their inventory is going to go to other companies. Am I essentially misunderstanding how liquidation works?

What I'm getting at is that I have friends who are already salivating at the prospect of a big sale. However, I can find no evidence that they're truly going to liquidate to the public.
posted by heatvision at 10:38 AM on July 19, 2011


The UK ones closed last year. I was sad and still am when I pass our branch. I found books through it I wouldn't have found online (American books, mostly). It was a good place to have coffee at or to read to the children. It held lectures, craft groups and children's workshops. There were also things I didn't like about it but it was much better than Waterstones. The scenes when the branches closed were very strange, with people taking shelves and other bits of furniture up to the counter.
posted by paduasoy at 10:40 AM on July 19, 2011


Wickuhpaedia has an absurdly detailed account of Borders early days. Apparently, the 'original' Borders on State Street was actually the third (or maybe it's fourth -- needs editing) location, making the currrent "Borders #1" on Liberty Street #4 -- or #5.

I recall that a colleague left our newspaper software company (there's a growing business!) to work at the Borders-spinoff Inventory System and came screaming back after a few weeks, saying (paraphrased) 'better the certainty of a shrinking customer base than utter chaos'.

Halloween Jack: It looks like you "came for the schadenfreude" about Borders, then took personal offence because people also have criticisms of libraries.

I was merely drawing a parallel between my inability to achieve instant biblio-gratification from either a giant bookstore or a giant library. My story is literally true -- since 1996, I have never once found a book I sought on the shelf at my local not-at-all-small branch. Generally, even if I threw in the towel and thought "I'll just buy it then," neither of the nearby Borders had it either.

I don't think you need to defend libraries here. I went to library school (Syracuse). Half of mefites went to library school, it sometimes seems. I'm pretty sure we're all friends of books, bookstores, and libraries here, even if we disagree on details like the value of in-store coffee or cats, or the inevitability of e-books.

Hell, I even like cats, even if I don't want 'em pissing on my books before I buy 'em.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:41 AM on July 19, 2011



Quite easily, Windigo. Number one culprit: Large parts of the store given over to stationery, toys, knick-knacks, calendars, and movie tie-ins. Number two culprit: Big displays of expensive hardcover potboilers that I could read at a speed that would cost me eight dollars an hour but would give little pleasure. Third culprit: Long shelves of how-to and self-help books that oversell ideas better rendered as pamphlets.

It's pretty easy to walk past the fancy cardboard displays at the front entrances and not walk directly to the self-help section, thus ignoring the other 80% of the store.
posted by Windigo at 10:54 AM on July 19, 2011


Books-A-Million is evil. They have NO science section*, a wall full of bonnet rippers and even more Left Behind-esque Christian fiction. It is not a book store, it is a lifestyle accessories outlet.**

* Seriously, I asked.

** This location is in Rocky River OH. Your store may vary (I certainly hope so.)

ltracey, BaM is exactly the same in my corner of the woods in VA. Huge christian fiction section, tons of bible accesories. Mediocre selection of everything else. I haven't set a foot there in years, though.
posted by Tarumba at 10:58 AM on July 19, 2011


These people terrify me and I shun them they're like crazed religious fundies

Religious fundies probably read the bible, though.

Wouldn't that count?
posted by Tarumba at 11:08 AM on July 19, 2011


As a former B&N bookseller, I've always had an irrational dislike for Borders. Their blonde shelving, their gaudy red signs, their casually-dressed booksellers (okay, there might have been some jealousy about that last part too). The comparisons of our paid membership (with a guaranteed savings at every transaction) to their free loyalty card ground my gears. Their shelves always seemed untidy and disorganized to me. Their booksellers felt more of the "passing through" kind than the lifetime booksellers that made up most of my store's staff. I never had the confidence, walking into a Borders, that they would have what I wanted, and they would have knowledgeable staff to help me find it. I'm already mourning the eventual loss of the brick and mortar bookstore, but I'm not mourning the loss of Borders itself.

As an unrelated aside, I'd like to put out a public service announcement that you really don't want to sit in those much-lauded cushy chairs. Those things are covered--crawling--with bacteria. People sit in them, take their shoes off, tuck their bare feet under their legs. People sneeze in them, cough in them, sleep in them. They are disgusting pieces of furniture, and they are never cleaned. Consider yourself warned.
posted by litnerd at 11:10 AM on July 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yet yesterday's letter from the president of Borders makes it sound to me like they're just closing their stores for good and their inventory is going to go to other companies.

Do you mean this? "we intend to present to the court for approval the proposal from Hilco and Gordon Brothers, under which these two companies will purchase our stores’ assets and administer the liquidation process"

I'm pretty sure that means that Borders' inventory and store assets will be sold to the public (at least what legally can, and maybe a bit more, per earlier comments), but that the Borders doing the selling will at that point be owned by Hilco and Gordon Brothers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:14 AM on July 19, 2011


Thanks, that's exactly what I was trying to understand.
posted by heatvision at 11:18 AM on July 19, 2011


Have bookstores using the Espresso Book Machine been doing well? I harbor an idle post-lottery fantasy of opening up a small bookstore with one of those installed.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:20 AM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Regarding the quality of books on sale at Borders, and more generally at big chains, I can only say this: I wrote a novel that came out in 2003 from a medium-sized non-profit press. Every time I walked into a Borders or B&N, anywhere in the country, my book was there. The same cannot be said for indie stores. I did a reading at a Borders in Philadelphia with two other debut novelists, a band, and free beer, provided by the store. I also had events in the Tucson Borders and 4 B&N locations. Borders may have been a crappily managed company, but they were supporters of contemporary non-commercial fiction.
posted by escabeche at 11:23 AM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


This news makes me sad for several reasons, but most importantly because Borders is the only non-university affiliated bookstore left in downtown Chicago. I won't be able to pick up a book on my way home. I won't be able to kill time browsing between work and an appointment. From what I understand, all of the books will be sold from Borders locations, same as the previous liquidations were held. Only this time, after the liquidations are finished, there will be nowhere to send the newly-store-less (former) employees. And this will really suck because half of my rent is currently paid by a Borders employee.

Selfishly, I'll miss the crazy stories about downtown Chicago patrons and ... guests that populate one of the few places that still provides access to public restrooms and allows people to come in and spend time out of the heat/cold/rain.
posted by betty botter at 11:25 AM on July 19, 2011


Guess I'll never spend that $10 Borders gift card I got for Christmas.

This is the reason I rarely choose to get someone a gift card. There are exceptions (my wife loves music and I'm pretty ignorant of it, so an iTunes gift card is always welcome), but basically if you can't figure out what tangible object makes a great gift for someone, why on earth should you decide which store they should buy it in?
posted by Deathalicious at 11:54 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


escabeche, you had an event at a Tucson Borders? Was it between four and ten years ago? The one attached to the mall, or the one by The Sports Authority?
posted by carsonb at 11:58 AM on July 19, 2011


These people terrify me and I shun them they're like crazed religious fundies

Religious fundies probably read the bible, though.


In my experience, no. I have many devout defenders of a few scattered verses, though.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:05 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, that's exactly what I was trying to understand.

That also means, though, that it's more or less the same bunch of scammers that run most liquidations, so don't expect actual deals. I bet that right now there are people in Borderses around the US putting on price stickers well above the printed price, so they can offer you a 20% discount off 140% of the price.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:31 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The comparisons of our paid membership (with a guaranteed savings at every transaction) to their free loyalty card ground my gears.

If the guaranteed savings were 30-40%, then you have cause. If not... while I was not able to walk into Borders anytime and claim such a discount, I could rely on that kind of coupon showing up in my inbox every two weeks or so, which was often enough for me.

They did have a paid membership (with guaranteed savings at every transaction) as well, though I never availed myself of it.
posted by weston at 12:34 PM on July 19, 2011


FWIW, Borders Group Employees LiveJournal. Goes back to 2002.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:29 PM on July 19, 2011


I said Book are just books. and then you said And air is just air

Look, librarians throw away books every day. They get rid of books on a regular basis. If the information is available in a format that works just as well and takes up less space, they are generally all for it. What I meant by that comment is that a book in and of itself is not some sacred object that we must protect at all costs. Librarians know this, and it's a struggle for all librarians to help people understand that throwing away books isn't some awful, horrifying thing that should never be done. In fact, as almost any librarian will tell you, it is something that has to be done regularly.
posted by bradth27 at 1:40 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


But do non-librarians throw away books on any regular basis? Me, I can't throw one away unless it's been very obviously damaged.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:17 PM on July 19, 2011


I don't know, really.... I'm not a non-librarian.
posted by bradth27 at 2:32 PM on July 19, 2011


bradth27: "Look, librarians throw away books every day. They get rid of books on a regular basis. "

Yeah, but hopefully by then those books been seen and read by a large number of library visitors. So they've served a greater purpose, so to speak.

I'm a non-librarian too. If you've been raised to respect books as I was, then it can be hard to part with them. But if a book's not totally falling apart and I'm finished with it I'll donate it to either my local library, or sell it to my local used book store.
posted by zarq at 2:40 PM on July 19, 2011


I feel sorry all the people obsessed with wandering around book stores, because clearly they've never been told about libraries...

I feel jealous of people whose local libraries are open as late as Borders was.

One fewer good place for my kids to hang out when they are teenagers. I hope something better takes its place.
posted by straight at 2:59 PM on July 19, 2011


Shelf Awareness has a pretty good story on the closings.

Thanks for that, Toekneesan; it's good, interesting stuff. Folks who care about this should check it out:

To our mind, the single-largest factor for Borders's chronic problems were to be found at the corporate level--starting with the unhappy merger of Borders and Walden and including, over time, the "category management" program, a revolving door of top executives and few people with book experience--all of which were exacerbated when control of the company was taken by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and corporate raider Bennett LeBow. For more on what happened at the company, see our article "Borders Missteps Go Back 20 Years," published February.

And from that 2nd linked article:

For many years, Borders, which was spun off by Kmart and went public in 1995, had several CEOs from outside the business--for some reason, two came from food retailing, notably Hickory Farms and Jewel-Osco, and hired many other top executives from outside the book business. While having some people from nonbook industries could provide fresh air and helpful new perspectives, this tendency seemed to have a corrosive effect on a company that in its early years was famous for its knowledgeable booksellers and solid, deep selection. One minor measure: it's been years since anyone has mentioned the once-legendary book quiz given to prospective Borders staffers. Likely most of the people running the company in the past few years wouldn't pass it.

One of the worst ideas brought in from the grocery store world was category management--the guiding principle of the company for a good part of the last decade that involved publishers sponsoring and managing sections--which maybe made sense for food retailing but was a mind-numbing distraction for Borders and publishers alike when the company should have been addressing some of its long-term problems, developing its own website and preparing in other ways for the electronic revolution....

Unfortunately, the financial collapse in 2008 shook the company to the ground, bringing on the Ackman-LeBow era of the past two years, when a hedge fund manager and a corporate raider, both of whom represent the worst of American capitalism, took over and drove the company into the ground.

The record of William Ackman and Bennett LeBow at Borders has involved inadequate investment, brutal staff cuts, the squeezing of remaining employees, a revolving door in the executive suite, deals that seemed to benefit them more than the company and other shareholders, deafness about the company's problems and the hiring of more management with no experience in the book world. Last year, who could not believe the end was at hand when the new chairman and major shareholder of Borders turned out to be a man who had a history of destroying companies, "borrowing" from them, and whose claim to fame was taking over a cigarette company?


Don't know for sure about that last set of accusations, but I bet it's accurate.
posted by mediareport at 5:05 PM on July 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


But do non-librarians throw away books on any regular basis? Me, I can't throw one away unless it's been very obviously damaged.

I regularly recycle or throw away books that I don't think the used bookstore will buy, and/or do not think the friend's of the public library bookstore can use either. Generally if I don't weed, I can sell about 65% of my average haul back to a used bookstore, but if I do weed it's closer to 90%. After decades of going into every used bookstore and most library book sales that I pass by in my travels I've come to the realization that most old books have negative value in that they just serve to hide or obfuscate the ones worth reading. Granted, I can whiz through a whole table of books almost as fast as the guys who do it for a living and use the scanners, but still I don't want to see 10 copies of some decades' Dan Brown. It's just depressing, and nobody buys it anyway. If they wanted to read the hack author of yester-year they'd already have a copy.

Books aren't holy objects, they are at best a reliquary for the ideas inside.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:35 PM on July 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Reliquaries aren't holy? News to me...
posted by mediareport at 6:52 PM on July 19, 2011


To go back to an idea I had at one point, reminded by the link to the Espresso Book Machine, I had a vision of B&N and Borders eventually turning their floor space into boutiques for showing off books. You'd then grab a ticket from the book, take it to the counter, then go to the coffee bar for a bit. Shortly you'd get called and pick your book (or magazine, perhaps) up, and take it home.

That would give something of the best of both worlds - you could see your book, feel it, check it out first, then get a freshly-assembled one from the machine.

Libraries would become centers for public research, with things like the encyclopedias and things that stop being economical for single-houses to have or keep around, and perhaps also have a children's section with cheap, easily-replaceable books. Maybe also have some classes there - basically turn them into research and social centers. On the other hand, I can actually hear the worst of the Republicans screaming about the socialist nature of such things.
posted by mephron at 7:46 PM on July 19, 2011


I don't know what the solution here is, but a big chain store which often won't even stock all of Jane Austen or unabridged Dumas doesn't strike me our Library of Alexandria.

I had a lot of luck with Borders, I guess. With the exception of Harry Potter, I don't read too many of the best sellers. Incidentally, I DID get all my Jane Austens there, including some annotated versions I would have had to pay more than double for out of a catalogue. I was very pleased to be able to buy all my Camus and Dashiell Hammett books in the same store where I FINALLY managed to track down LP Hartley's The Go-Between, Raymond Radiguet's two books, Jean Cocteau, Andre Breton's Nadja, and Georges Perec's Life: A User's Manual .. Of all those books I listed, all my independent bookstores had were the budget Dover editions of the basic Jane Austen titles. Not too impressive. AND Borders also was my source for British tv on dvd (I could buy The IT Crowd in a STORE?!) and new Sparks albums. I can't find Sparks in my local used record stores. Actually, looking back on it, it's kind of incredible what I was able to buy at my Borders without the extreme hassle of online shopping. And, with the almost weekly Borders coupons, I rarely paid full price for anything, so that Amazon wasn't always worth the effort. I suppose I had a better store than you did. Or I guess my tastes were easier to fulfill? Anyway, NOW it's hitting me how much I've relied on Borders in the past 10-12 years, and how much I'm going to suffer without it. RIP, old friend. When I gaze at my shelves that are almost collapsing under the extreme heft of all of books, I will think of you with a misty eye.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:46 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel sorry all the people obsessed with wandering around book stores, because clearly they've never been told about libraries...

I love and support libraries (and independent bookstores.. really, any place that facilitates reading is alright by me), but not all libraries (or independent bookstores) are created equal. Sure, you can do special orders at both libraries and bookstores, but, at times, it just doesn't seem worth the hassle. To each his own, I guess.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:56 PM on July 19, 2011


Why do we need libraries when we have Borders?
Why do we need Borders when we have Amazon?
Why do we need books when we have ereaders?
Why do we need to read when we have movies?

People are amazingly short sighted.

The argument comparing ebooks to mp3’s is sort of silly. Whether I’m listening to a vinyl album or an mp3, I’m listening to it, the physical structure has some impact, but not anything like the difference between reading an actual book and reading on a computer.

I spend hours a day reading on the computer, but I will probably never read an ebook, or have an ereader.
posted by bongo_x at 12:11 AM on July 20, 2011


I'm fine with reading off an iPad, except outside. But I'm not a very sentimental person. And the display tech will improve.
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 1:47 AM on July 20, 2011


Great blog piece by the always very thoughtful Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Ed about the demise of the physical bookstore.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:48 AM on July 20, 2011


...the Ackman-LeBow era of the past two years, when a hedge fund manager and a corporate raider, both of whom represent the worst of American capitalism, took over and drove the company into the ground.


But these wise and wealthy men are the blessed job creators!*


(*See also: Mitt Romney's claim to business acumen.)
posted by darkstar at 5:49 AM on July 20, 2011


It still seems to be business as usual at borders web site. and I'm still getting their email with the usual offers, hawking the borders plus membership and their e-reader. Is it just the physical stores closing? Or will the web site close too?

I never found there to be much difference between Borders and the B&N. I have both locally. I mostly use the B&N because it has better parking. Borders had better special offers, and better coffee.
posted by DarkForest at 5:56 AM on July 20, 2011


The argument comparing ebooks to mp3’s is sort of silly. Whether I’m listening to a vinyl album or an mp3, I’m listening to it, the physical structure has some impact, but not anything like the difference between reading an actual book and reading on a computer.

I bet there are plenty of people who are fine with reading books on a Kindle but insist on listening to their music on vinyl. People have different priorities.

"I mean, whether you're reading a story printed on a bunch of paper or displayed as a pixels on a screen, you're reading it. The physical structure has some impact, but not anything like the difference between listening to an actual album and listening to a digital copy of it."
posted by Deathalicious at 7:00 AM on July 20, 2011


>"I mean, whether you're reading a story printed on a bunch of paper or displayed as a pixels on a screen,<

Yeah, that doesn’t work. I agree, people do have different priorities, but no. If I’m playing an mp3 or vinyl or a CD and you can’t see it, I can ask if you know which one it is and you may or may not be able to tell. There are differences, but for the most part you are hearing the same thing.

There is no comparable test for a book. It’s a different experience.
posted by bongo_x at 9:03 AM on July 20, 2011


There is no comparable test for a book. It’s a different experience.

I don't get this, but I've been reading text in both electronic and print form going on 22 years now. I think I got over my attachment to ink on paper after I was completely creeped out by (BIG BIG TRIGGER WARNING FOR THOSE THAT NEED IT) Kij Johnson's "Spar" in a web page. I realized that since the power of writing happens entirely in my head, the story probably wouldn't be any more effective if I had encountered it a badly bound and cheap magazine or mass-market edition.

Electronic text isn't a replacement for print books, it's a supplement to them. It's almost completely replaced periodicals, and I'm using it to replace pulp and reference works that come with a stamped-on expiration date.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:15 AM on July 20, 2011


One odd thing: no article I've seen, and no one I've talked to has heard anything about the fate of Borders.com. Anyone seen/heard anything?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:25 AM on July 20, 2011


I'm cool with reading stories on Mrs. Machine's Kindle, but I just can't get used to it for reference works, or more serious books.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:31 AM on July 21, 2011


One odd thing: no article I've seen, and no one I've talked to has heard anything about the fate of Borders.com. Anyone seen/heard anything?

Borders.com and its database are some of the assets that will be included in the auction to be conducted by Hilco and Gordon Brothers. It's anyone's guess what will happen to it after that, but the database is probably more valuable than the domain as the the company name is yet another asset up for auction. Unless the folks who by the domain are the same folks who buy the name, I'm not sure what good it might do anyone.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:57 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love indy bookstores and libraries and my Kindle (the holy trinity of Borders alternatives being offered up in this thread), but I will still say that Borders was one of my favorite hangouts in my early-mid teens, and I have fond memories. Reading magazines like Adbusters that seemed so subversive, huddling on the floor with a group of my girlfriends giggling over a pile of books from the sex section (whatever it was called), running into my English teacher while she was buying books about Wicca...it was a really good time. I noticed the selection going pretty dramatically downhill over time, but a world where Borders is gone and Books-a-Million is still standing is clearly a world without any justice.
posted by naoko at 10:54 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a facebook group for Borders employees who are sharing their memories of the chain. It's worth a visit to put a face on some of the numbers being tossed around here. It was there I read this:

Jan 3, 1990, chalklined and fixtured Store #02 in Columbus. Nearly died on day 3 of the sort due to rupturing appendix, but made it back after a week or so... spent the next 19 years at Borders. Shit canned March of 2009. I did not miss Borders then. It had ceased to be an organization worth caring about, because it had ceased to be an organization that cared... but what it had been was culturally powerful and intensely personal... as demonstrated by this page and all these people. My thought... do not mourn what has passed, but remember what was so great... the passion for knowledge and art and the written word, the cultural touchstone that was built on this passion, and most of all the people who generated all of that passion... and take that to wherever you are now, wherever you go next. Borders proved that a business and a job could be a community and a lifestyle that transcended base mercantilism. It doesn't matter that it didn't last, what matters is that it was, and you were part of it.Neil Carver
posted by Toekneesan at 7:12 AM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Bookseller Without Borders
posted by litnerd at 10:26 AM on July 22, 2011


Neil Carver! Dang, I'm pretty sure I worked with him in Ann Arbor! Right on, Neil.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:56 PM on July 22, 2011




Although I've been disappointed to see my local Borders go the route of fewer books, more random items, I'm still so so so sad to see it go. When I know a specific book I want, I'll usually just order it from Amazon rather than drive over to see if Borders carries it. But for certain types of books, it makes such a difference to see it in person first. For cookbooks and travel guides, I may check on Amazon to see what's around, but I'd much rather buy from Borders where I can flip through and compare.

At least in travel books, I've used enough to have a general idea which publishers I prefer. But cookbooks! Last fall I was looking to start pickling, and looked at books online. From user comments and such, I had it narrowed down to 2 books, leaning towards one of them. Checked Borders, they had them both in stock, and my second favorite online seemed the much better option once I could see it in person. And I've yet to find an independent bookstore with anything like the cooking section at this Borders, with everything fairly well organized by cooking style or region of food.

Also, I like the idea of independent bookstores, but the few around here that I know of are open during normal business hours, when I'm at work. I love being able to pop over to Borders at 7 pm on a Sunday and browse the new hardcovers, the cookbooks, and the maps/travel guides for a while. It's a gentle way to be semi-social when I don't really feel like interacting a lot. Not sure what I'll use for a third space, with Borders gone.
posted by dorey_oh at 7:59 PM on July 23, 2011


Books without Borders: My Life at the World's Dumbest Bookstore Chain, by Paul Constant. In The Stranger.
In 2001, Borders would go on to partner with Amazon.com, allowing the online book retailer to handle their internet sales for them, if you can believe it. There's a photo of Jeff Bezos and then-Borders president and CEO Greg Josefowicz shaking hands to celebrate the partnership. Josefowicz has weatherman hair and a broad smile, and he's beaming past the camera with the cocksure giddiness of a guy who thinks he just got rid of all his problems because he sold his dumb old cow for a handful of really cool magic beans. But when you pull your eyes away from Josefowicz's superheroic chin, you notice that Jeff Bezos is smiling directly into the camera with keen shark eyes. His smile is more relaxed, a little more candid than Josefowicz's photo-op-ready grin. It's the face of someone who's thinking, I finally got you, you son of a bitch.

It's a photograph of the exact second that Borders died.

posted by zarq at 8:31 AM on August 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Now, as Borders dissipates and 10,000 people lose their jobs, I can only wonder what might have happened in 1996 if they had embraced their idealistic young Wobblies, the final kicks of life in an already dying chain.
Jonathan Gourlay recounts his story of how workers at Borders store #21 in Center City Philadelphia tried to join the IWW.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:47 PM on August 17, 2011


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