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A World Without Borders (Books)?

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a paperback copy of The Wednesday Sisters!

Recently, Shelf Awareness mentioned an article on the website 24/7 Wall Street, “Twelve Brands That Will Disappear by End of 2010“. Unfortunately, Borders Books is on their list.

Click through the read all of the predicted casualties, but here’s the blurb for Borders:

Borders (BGP) has struggled for several years as the No.2 operator of book store behind Barnes & Noble. When Border’s released its last set of earnings it said it would cut the number of Waldendbooks stores from about 300 to 50 or 60. With Border’s losses, that won’t be enough. The pressure from online book operations led by Amazon (AMZN) and new e-book readers is overwhelming Borders. In the fourth quarter of last year, sales at Border’s branded stores dropped 15.3%. For the full year 2008, Borders lost $157 million on revenue of $2.8 billion. Borders recently extended its $42.5 million senior secured term loan with Pershing Square Capital Management, moving the due date to April 1, 2010. That may be the day that Borders goes away. Border’s shares trade at $1.47, down from a 52-week high of $8.02.

I know Border’s has been struggling, but I didn’t think anyone would project they would go away! This projection saddens me for a number of reasons:

  • I love Borders. I don’t like how Barnes & Noble has their stores set up, so I don’t like shopping there.
  • I’m nervous about what this would do to the publishing industry, who sell a large amount of books to the big chains. I assume that Barnes & Noble could take up any slack, as will all independent book stores, but that still doesn’t change the fact that a large purchaser of books is knocking on death’s door.
  • Where will groups, such as the knitting group I’m in, move to? Borders is very open to having groups meet at their stores, and all those groups will be displaced.

In the past year, I’ve bought fewer and fewer books at Borders, choosing instead to purchase from local independent bookstores. So while this possibility of Border’s closing makes me very melancholy, I’m excited for what this could mean for independent bookstores. 

  • Would independent bookstores make a comeback if Border’s folded?
  • Will independent bookstores become the bookstore standard, with knowledgeable staff and handpicked inventory?

I’ve never imagined what life would be like without Borders, but I think it would probably be good for society to have to go back to the independent bookstores. If I had to choose, I’d rather the store that was on life support was Barnes & Noble, but somewhere in my life someone forgot to name me God over the book world, so Borders it is.

| Tags: , , , , 33 comments »

33 Responses to “A World Without Borders (Books)?”

  1. Kiki

    The third biggest chain in the nation is Books a Million (I work for them) and from what I’ve heard for a while, Borders has been struggling–they are very understaffed in their stores, making it hard to really have any kind of real customer service.

    While I like independent bookstores, I have to say, I purchase books where I can buy them cheaply (I have 4 kids, after all). While I use the library liberally and often and also get a few ARC’s every month, if I really want a book (because I love it or it isn’t readily available from the library) I do shop around for the best price. Because I have to. I shop for everything that way.

    It is upsetting when people come in and say they can get this or that book (oh, usually Stephanie Meyers or something like that) much cheaper than us at Wal Mart! The whole world is being undersold by Wal Mart and target–so we shall see what happens.

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  2. MotherReader

    I prefer Borders too, though I rarely go to any bookstore these days between working at a library and the ease of Amazon. They have better email updates than B&N too. Poor Borders.

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  3. Steph

    Unfortunately, I don’t know that Borders folding means that people will turn to their local indies. I would think that the reason Borders isn’t doing well is because people choose to buy their books from even cheaper vendors such as Amazon; I don’t think Borders is really losing many customers to the independent bookstores. Having knowledgeable staff is awesome, but I think more people would rather have a larger selection of books to choose from, rather than a smaller “hand-picked” batch. I might be in the minority, but I don’t turn to sales people in bookstores to guide my reading – I already know what books I want to read when I go into the store… generally from having browsed book blogs! That’s not to say that I don’t like to look at the tables that are set out with bargains and whatnot, but again, in those cases, having a wider selection of books is more of an appeal to me.

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    Kiki Reply:

    I rarely ask for help in a bookstore either, but some people just don’t understand things are alphabetical by author, or really want a good suggestion–kind of like my husband–he always asks the wait staff “what’s your favorite thing on the menu?” gosh it annoys the heck out of me! But there rally is no sense searching endlessly for a book the store might not even stock–that’s why we’re there.

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  4. Christina

    Oh, no! I too prefer Borders over B&N, which overwhelms me with their super tall bookcases (I’m 5’11” and they’re taller than me). And I love the style of Borders classics. The closet independent bookstore for me is in the next town over and costs $6 in tollway fees to get there, so Borders closing won’t entice me to their store. All my shopping will either be done at B&N or online through Amazon.

    Better go use that Borders gift card while I still have the chance…

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  5. Karen @ Planet Books

    I am saddened by this news as well. I have known for a while now that the company has been struggling and have dreaded this news. I worked for the White Flint Borders Books, Music & Cafe from August 1997 to August 1998. This particular store was one of the companies flagship stores and is awesome. I started as a Music Seller and was promoted to Corporate Accounts Representative for the last half of my time there. One of my oldest friends was a corporate employee who traveled all over the country and the world to take pictures and check on the status of new stores and renovations and he was laid off last summer.

    I go to Borders before I go to B&N when in the States and though I am biased, I like the layout better at Borders. It makes more sense and has a cozier feeling about it. There are still some Book Sellers working at the White Flint store that have been there at least sine 1997 and I worry what they will do if these stores do really close in the future.

    Though I do have a Kindle, as do thousands of others in this country, I don’t think that the bibliophile will give in to completely reading on an e-Reader. The love of books is too strong to give up the literal book and how it feels to walk into a book store and browse the shelves, discovering new books at every turn.

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  6. Kathy

    I’m like you – I’d like to see them all survive, but Borders closing won’t affect our market much. We have and indie, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and a Borders Express. The Borders Express is in the mall and it’s very small, so it’s selection is limited.

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  7. softdrink

    I actually like our local B&N over Borders…although I probably visit Borders more due to easier and free parking. Our B&N is a lovely, friendly store. The Borders has always been kind of frumpy in comparison…with lousy employees. However, you can tell that Borders is trying to change their image, because their customer service has done a total 180…to the point where they are now obnoxious in their desire to ask if you need help. One of these days I’m going to snap and tell them to leave me alone, I’m browsing.

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  8. Jessica

    So sad. So much of it is digital now too. Kindles, eReaders, eBooks. But it makes me sad.

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  9. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    I”m a Barnes and Noble girl but pretty sure I just read good news for Borders. I’ve been told more choices=better for books so I think it would only be harmful in the long run.

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  10. Trish

    I don’t know if there is any truth in this, but I heard several months ago that B&N was approached to purchase Borders and they turned it down. Like I said, could just be a rumor. I actually prefer B&N but Borders is closer to my house (at least until the shiny new one is finished) and they send out better coupons. But the best is Half Price Books!!!

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  11. Ti

    My particular B&N is much better than our Borders but I go to either one based on convenience. Lately though, I have been buying from Vroman’s online or Powell’s. Time is a factor but I have been trying to support the Indies so that’s the other reason I buy online.

    The possibility of any bookstore closing makes me sad though.

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  12. Nicole

    I have to say that I am a B&N girl. I feel like Borders was late getting into the game in NYC. There are 3 or here now, one is not too far and I like to visit, but they have never had very competitive pricing so this doesn’t surprise me.

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  13. Meghan

    This is sad! I do most of my new book shopping at Borders. At home they have coupons, here in the UK they have online prices comparable to Amazon and often great deals in-store. I actually prefer B&N at home and Waterstone’s here because I like their vibes better, but I go where it’s cheaper. The only indie near my parents only stocks bestsellers, kids’ books, the school reading lists, and gifts unrelated to books, so I’m never able to find anything on my wishlist there. Here they all seem to be specialized on expensive, rare books. Shame. I think it would harm the book industry if it closed down. Rather than revive indies, I suspect people would just go to Amazon or B&N.

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  14. Beth F

    Sad news. But what gets me is that Borders ran indies out of business in smaller towns and then couldn’t hold on long enough to provide those locales with books. I doubt many Borders will be replaced by an indie. Either no store or a B&N is my guess.

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    I Heart Monster Reply:

    Exactly! The little town that they call a city that I’m putting off moving to in Wyoming only has a Waldenbooks… (all others went out after W came in) Borders going under will mean Walmart and Target are the only options for people to find and purchase books, which is really sad.

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  15. Jen - Devourer of Books

    I used to prefer Borders, but the quality of their stores (at least near me) seem to have declined lately and they seem to have more non-book/music/movie junk than B&N. Add that to the fact that there are two B&Ns far closer to my house than a Borders, and I don’t make it to Borders very often. I have a gift card right now that I’m going to go and use sooner rather than later just in case the predictions are right and this happens sooner than we think it will (like what happened with Circuit City). I don’t want to end up with a useless giftcard!

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  16. Megan

    I worked at Borders for years and absolutely love the store! On a personal level, our Borders is the only bookstore in our burgeoning town of 30,000 (ridiculous, isn’t it?). So our county would be without a bookstore! Sure, we have a used paperback shop and giants like Target and Wal-Mart toting the latest whatever, but to not have an actual bookstore? That would be insanity. As you mentioned, Borders stores are also a community post… and, in my town, the epicenter of activity. If you head out on a Friday night, you’ll see at least 756 people you know at Borders or the other local hot spot, Panera.

    I still work part-time doing events at our Borders, and we talk about this issue every time I’m there. I just hope the chain can hold on a little bit longer… but I have no idea what the future will bring. As the article you quoted mentions, external pressures on the mortar-and-brick establishment will probably overwhelm it. Who wants to pay more for a book at Borders when they can get it much cheaper on Amazon? I don’t know. Too sad to think about!

    And I’m heading there on my lunch break to get Megan McCafferty’s Second Helpings!

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    KM Reply:

    We are in a similar situation here. We have a Borders, which I work at, and a Books a Million. Everyone that walks in says that BAM is insane in trying to find a book and that they can never find any help. It will be very sad if this Borders here closes. I don’t like BAM and prefer not to get my books at Wal-mart or Target. There is no B&N here (and I prefer not to shop there, the layout stinks) and the closest one would be Nashville! Yikes! It is a wonder what the future will bring as you say. Especially with the economy going as it is. I definately agree with everyone though, if Borders is no more, than most people will shop either Amazon (for the more rare books) and at Walmart (for the popular ones). Its a shame. But we can only do so much. So hopefully Borders will be here a little bit longer.

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  17. Heather (Belle of the Books)

    I agree that regardless of which chain you prefer, this is sad news for all of us. Although there might be more business going to the other outlets, it still means there will be less options available to us. Although Amazon might still carry tons of books, the other cheap outlets that are undercutting Borders, B&N and indies are places like Walmart and Target, who generally only carry trashy paperbacks or major bestsellers in a cleared off corner of the CD section. The discount stores near me do not have any kind of focus on books and the fact that they are doing damage to the market is incredibly saddening because that means people are not reading the quality books that are out there.

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  18. Jeanne

    I have to drive an hour to get to a Borders or Barnes and Noble, so they’re pretty close to the same to me, except that I have a credit card that gives me book points–used to be at Waldenbooks, but now it’s also Borders. So every few months we seek out a Borders to use our book coupons.

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  19. Lorin

    There’s a Borders walking distance of my office with a public food market next door. My favorite lunches are walking over there, getting a book, getting some Thai food and sitting outside. I hope they don’t go under!

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  20. Bookfool, aka Nancy

    I love Borders. That would suck.

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  21. chartroose

    Our Borders in CS is dirty and skanky–kind of like ex-pastor Ted Haggard. It’s too bad because I like the Borders setup better than B&N too.

    We have no indie bookshops left in the Springs, so I don’t think Border’s demise is going to make that big a difference to indie’s in a lot of places. Half the books I buy are Kindle books, so it’s online Amazon for me.

    I’m dying with envy about your meetup at the LA fest! I’m SO living in the wrong place!

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  22. natalie @ book, line, and sinker

    the borders closest to me is almost 25 minutes away–in nj that is an unheard of traveling distance–everything is always 5 minutes away.

    i wouldn’t care if both of them went away and independent stores came back to reclaim the landscape.

    what will probably happen is that evil wal-mart and target will start to carry more books and take up some of the market if borders goes the way of the 8-track.

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  23. Lisa

    Our only bookstore is a Borders. We don’t have any indies or anything else except a couple of used bookstores. So if it closed it would be horrible. The next nearest bookstore is hours away.

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  24. Christa

    I’m the exact opposite. I prefer the lay out of our B&N over our Borders so I’m pretty much a B&N girl. ALthough I do like haveing both to go to so it saddens me to hear this. I also like going to our local used book store. I can generally find just about anything there for half the price!

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  25. sarah pekkanen

    I want the slanket! I want the slanket!
    Sorry — I know I’m off-topic. Just watching Tivo’d 30 Rock and thinking of you & your giveaways….

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  26. Lisamm

    I’m a Borders person- I love our local store. I would have to drive miles to find an independent, so if we lose Borders, I’ll be buying online or at Target. B & N is just far enough away that I know I’d rarely make the trip.

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  27. Debbie

    Oh, that’s so sad. I really hope not. I like Borders so much better than B&N. Seems like wherever I move to their is never a B&N nearby and for some reason I just don’t care for the way they display their books as much. I’m a total browser and love wandering around the store looking for books.

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  28. bobby p

    i work in a borders in the uk. the uk was sold off last year to others.
    the uk is now failing too, they are going to close stores down soon.
    i hope it isnt my job going

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    KM Reply:

    Wow, you work at one in the UK? Thats awesome! I hope if doesn’t go either. I work at one in TN. Its interesting but you can tell the economy is definately changing. It used to be fun to work here, now its almost too much pressure. Sad, really sad.

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  29. jsdy

    Re: Borders Express – they’ll go with the Waldenbooks, before the big Borders stores go; and if Borders folds, so will they.

    Re: White Flint – the number of shelves is progressively shrinking: how can they possibly continue to be profitable? Sections are shrinking, too. But the same is true at B&N! *sigh*

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