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Bye-bye Borders

It’s finally official: Borders is closing for good. Certainly, it’s not happy news, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that nearly 11,000 employees will soon be out of their jobs. And while Borders hasn’t really been a credible alternative to B&N for some years now, it’s disturbing to think that B&N is now the only nationwide physical bookstore chain.

But on a reading/shopping level, I’m curious—are any of you actually upset to see Borders go?

Personally, I was never a big fan of my local Borders at Columbus Circle. It always felt disorganized, especially in the children’s section, and the author appearance area had all the warmth of an airplane hangar, with acoustics to match. Then again, I’m lucky to live in a big city with a lot of bookstore options—for any of you, was Borders the only convenient bookstore? If so, was it a good place to shop and attend author events? And now that it’s gone, are there other smaller, regional chains you’d like to step into the breach?

FYI, for a more sympathetic eulogy, check out this piece from today’s Shelf Awareness—wish I’d had more experiences like Bethanne!

13 Responses to Bye-bye Borders

  1. Hmmm. Our own Borders experience was similar yet different. My county has maybe 18,000 people (in hundreds of square miles), no bookstores, but at least three public libraries that I know of. Teeny ones, but still libraries.

    However, we border (ha) on a county with probably 95,000 – they had three bookstores (down from a high of probably six, during the early 1990s) – Borders, a regional chain named Hastings, and a local mystery bookstore.

    Our Borders – it was a mess, and it finally closed about six months ago. I don’t recall it starting out that bad, but the last few years the selection and the organization was dire. They didn’t seem to get the reading audience for physical bookstores (especially the children’s section!!!).

    The Hastings is picking up the slack and running with it. The selection is not at all like Borders, and a lot of it is not my taste, but I can walk in there and respect that the buyer has a serious clue about who they are reaching, and how to balance books and other media. Part of it is a spectacular magazine selection, too. Also, strangely, nonfiction is really close and accessible to the front of the store (at least in ours).

    I’ve been to several other Hastings, and I have to say, the best one is in Hays, Kansas. Which surprises many people, but, it’s true. And while I don’t live there or know much about the store, it seemed to be thriving.

    We miss our Borders most for a meeting place – you could run into everyone there, because the location was fabulous. Everyone browsed. I don’t know how many bought. Evidently not enough.

  2. I’ll miss my local Borders. We got a B&N a couple of years ago, so I’m lucky to still have another bookstore option, but Borders was the first one to move into my town. I’ve spent so many hours there and, even though I haven’t been going there as much as I used to, I am sorry to see it closing.

  3. Although I have never been a big Borders fan, (disorganization, as you mention; and more recently, an over-the-top agressive pursuit of browsers at two local stores) I felt sadness this morning on reading in my newspaper about the end of Borders. There will now be some communities without book stores, and fewer avenues nationwide in which to get books into the hands of readers. That’s not even counting the human cost of so many people being unemployed.

    So few people read nowadays (I recall some paltry figure like the average American reads one book a year) and the above-average readers have, it appears, migrated to their e-readers. I fear for the demise of the entire bookselling business as it follows on the heels of the shuttering of the video/DVD stores.

    But perhaps I am being overly dyspeptic this morning. I’m looking forward to reading some cheerier comments to balance my Cassandra-like handwringing.

  4. Stephen says:

    The closure won’t have much impact on my life. Books-A-Million and B&N have a very firm hold on the big box market here in Birmingham. Further, there are libraries and coffee/book stores next to every church down here. And this is Alabama. Churches, we got. (Along with a lovely percentage of our population that is illiterate, in case Alanis Morisette is looking for another misuse for irony.)

    I wonder if the nationwide aspect of Borders is (was) part of the problem. I mean, the USA is huge. Sure, many titles span cultural interest from coast to coast, but I wonder if BAM’s regional model has helped them stay in the black by knowing the interests of their specific region (as much as any business can presume to “know” the interests of people)? Seems to me a brick a mortar store would want a more narrow appeal in what they carry and leave the stuff that falls outside of the local interest to Amazon. I don’t know; just thinking out loud here.

  5. Stephanie says:

    The note on regional differences is a big one; although I feel like the book industry should have known these changes were coming with everything that happened to the music industry.

    I was a fan of Borders and shopped their regularly until I got more serious about writing and keeping up with the publishing industry. Then, I migrated most of my book shopping to a local indedependent and B&N when I bought a Nook. I also use my library a lot. I think Borders will be missed by those occassional readers, which is a LOT of people. More hardcore book lovers may have moved on from Borders awhile ago – esp if you invested in an Amazon Prime account, it’s almost better than leaving the house to buy ANYTHING :) I think the loss of Borders is a loss for anyone who appreciates book and wants reading to be easily accessible for everyone.

  6. That, Mr. Anderson, is the sound of inevibility.

  7. Sunny says:

    I will definitely miss Borders! I love the casual atmosphere, Seattle’s Best Coffee, and the ability to search for books without having to wait for someone to help me. I don’t care for B&N at all. and I miss books a million don’t have one here.

  8. Reading over these comments – whether it’s justified or not, my brain sort of made the leap to e-books. I have been thinking about their appeal in nonfiction recently, especially to niche topics, some of them with a regional spin.

    And, a theme emerged above regarding successful regional bookstore chains.

    Hmmm.

  9. John says:

    Well, I guess it’s gratifying to hear that others had issues with Borders, too–for once NYC is in sync with the rest of the country!

    Seriously, I don’t think regional/national concerns were an issue so much as mismanagement. For example, Borders seemed to have a unique talent for putting their stores in the most undesirable places possible: When I was an editor, there was a lot of chuckling that in yet another attempt at reinvention, Borders plunked one of their new “concept” stores in the statistically least-trafficked strip mall in all of New Jersey. And NJ has a LOT of strip malls…

  10. Kim says:

    Dallas’ first Borders’ opening coincided with the closing of our one independent bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. After getting over their possible role in S&C’s demise, I initially loved the store. Then we got B&N. After a while, my problem with the big box stores, especially Borders, had to do not only with whether or not they were serving the local market for books, but their lack of support for the local community. When I went to my local Borders to ask for a prize contribution for an Earth Day event, I was treated very badly. The staff acted as if I’d come to rob them of something. Then, they talked about contributions to literacy and I knew what they were talking about–I was asked, and gladly contributed–by a San Francisco Borders staff person to buy books for a children’s hospital. So I buy, they get the credit (and probably added some contribution of their own). But that’s not the same as what I witnessed in our local Starbucks when someone came in with the same request and they gladly complied.

  11. Borders is the only book store close to my house, and I take my kids there all the time. I’m so sad, but I’m also an old-school book girl and have resisted the e-reader craze. My favorite book store in the area (Tattered Cover) is still going strong, but it’s a hike from my house, so I’m in Borders mourning right now. :(

  12. Stephanie P says:

    I too wasn’t the biggest fan of the Columbus Circle Borders (for the selection and because customer services was just SO bad)…. but given it was the only convenient bookstore in the immediate area (give the B&N also closed nearby) it was nice to browse there and pick up magazines and the discounted mass market books I needed (I save savory fiction for the smaller book stores (like Crawford Doyle Booksellers). Who is going to fill in the space (both literally for that location but in the bigger picture, all those stores that provided books to areas of the country where mom and pop stores no longer exist?)… Sigh…. and will it be ever more hard to traditionally publish as an author?

  13. Julie Nilson says:

    I’m going to miss the selection of periodicals at Border’s. In those racks, I had access to hundreds of smaller magazines and literary journals that I’d never see in most stores’ magazine sections. B&N probably has something similar, but the nearest one is a lot further away.

    And in general, any time a bookseller goes out of business, I think it’s a bad thing.

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