The big news in bookselling this week has been, of course, Border’s filing for bankruptcy and the subsequent closing of approximately one-third of their stores in America. Analysts and market experts will be looking at this company for months, figuring out where they went wrong and why they failed. There are certainly a myriad of reasons to choose from:
· The high standards of book knowledge to which employees were once held have slipped considerably. I’ve been told (but have not confirmed the truth behind the story) that employees were once required to take quizzes to ensure literary awareness, but that this hasn’t been done in some time now.
· In recent years many of the company’s upper management didn’t come from bookselling backgrounds and lacked familiarity with the market.
· The company has had serious problems retaining senior management - only one vice president has been in his position for longer than a year.
· The rise of eReaders and digital books will doom brick and mortar bookstores, of which Borders is only the first to fall.
· Borders was slow to react to the Internet’s influence, allowing Amazon to run their website for much, much too long and being slow to integrate the website with the physical stores.
· And the list goes on and on…
About two hundred stores will be closing. How will that affect you?
In my city of San Jose, California, both of our Borders stores are closing. Nearby Los Gatos’ location will also shut its doors. To the south, Santa Cruz will be closed. To the north, San Francisco is losing three Borders locations. The closest location to me is now a half hour drive away. It’s a hard trip to justify when there’s a Barnes & Noble is less than ten minutes away from my house and my work. Heck, if I want to drive half an hour, I will go to an independent bookstore like Kepler’s in Menlo Park or Books, Inc. in Mountain View!
A small part of me is excited – I expect some sweet, sweet deals as these closing stores liquidate their stock. But mostly I feel a bit sad. I like Borders. Many of the table displays have introduced me to new authors and new titles that I never would have found on my own. The in-store coffee cafes made some tasty mochas!
In 2003, when the Borders ten minutes from my house opened, I was in my first year at college. With my coffee in one hand and textbooks in the other, going to Borders for a late night study session was a rite of passage. It was a great place to go and browse, or to study. Barnes and Noble never fulfilled this need for me, because it was a bookstore from my childhood. It was my mom’s bookstore of choice – how uncool is that? As an adult, I was a Borders girl.
So good-bye, Borders. I hope that the company will somehow get revitalized and perhaps, someday, return to San Jose. I’ll miss it.