Borders Is Gone: Better For Local Bookstores?


Does the demise of mega-book-seller Borders mean that independent bookstores, which shut down in droves over the past several years, will rise again?

Sadly, this seems unlikely due to the rapidly changing landscape of book-selling. Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association — a nonprofit that represents about 1,600 independent booksellers in the US — says that independent stores located near a shuttered, or soon-to-be shuttered, big box book store are certainly making the effort to attract former customers by, for instance, honoring Borders gift cards. The Atlantic describes some other ways:

… extending special discounts, offering space for book clubs that formerly met at Borders, and even running newspaper advertisements in the wake of Borders’ closing to remind book buyers of other existing options. “There is the beginning of at least a little evidence in some markets of the country where there was a Borders close by, that the nearby store has picked up on that business,” Teicher says. “This is the time to be as aggressive and out-front as one can.”

But the reality is that the independents and big bookstore chains are actually “not enemies but acquaintances that begrudgingly empathize with each other.” Their real competition is online e-tailers:

BookStats, a recent survey conducted by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group, is underpinned by the recognition that the publishing industry, once a fairly focused entity, has transformed and differentiated significantly over the past decade. According to the survey, online retail “clearly” gained market share lost by other distribution channels between 2008 and 2010—a growth attributed to changing purchasing habits and the increasing popularity of e-books. Publishers reported a 55.2-percent increase in net sales revenue coming from online retail, resulting in$2.82 billion in 2010. As comparison, publishers’ 2010 revenue from independent retailers was $642 million and $3.06 billion from brick-and-mortar retail chains.

Opening an independent book store is no more viable than before. After all, here in the US you can buy books for 40 percent off at Costco.

It’s depressing news: Bookstores not only sell books but often serve as informal culture and community centers — even though so many of us (myself included) are switching to ebooks, there really is nothing like a “real” paper one. Nonetheless, I have a number of the textbooks for my classes in ebook form on my phone and my laptop. Just yesterday I was talking to my students about the far cheaper price for many e-textbooks, not to mention the convenience of carrying a Kindle or other device instead of heaving to schlep around a heavy bag (a serious issue for many of my students, who commute to college via public transportation).

But it’s still too early to write an elegy for all bookstores. The fact that so many have mourned the closure of Borders is a sign that people consider bookstores important. Elly Blue, who is on a month-long Dinner & Bikes tour around the western U.S.. proposes that bikes could play a part in bringing back the neighborhood bookstore. At a stop in affluent Santa Monica — which is full of bike enthusiasts but very short on bookstores — Blue describes the tour’s traveling bookstore, which contains books about bikes, urban gardening and radical movements. Writes Blue:

The demand we found in Santa Monica for independent bookstores and underground publishers means it’s only a matter of time before someone rises to fill the space left after the big-box crash. It’s a trend that parallels the rise of the bicycle movement: As society and individuals stagger under the ever-escalating costs of building and maintaining roads, filling up our gas tanks, and suffering the health and social consequences of auto-centric suburbs, many of us have turned back to the simplicity of the bike.

You could say that cars killed the independent bookstore: They fell prey to the same nexus of industrial, financial, and political maneuvering that created our car-oriented landscape. But bicycling could help bring them back. Right now, it feels good to know our tiny rental car carries both bikes and the promise of a new iteration of urbanism — one where everyone can afford to both travel at will, sit, and read a good book.

Could bikes help bring back bookstores at a local level?


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Lilithe Magdalene

I always preferred used book stores over places like Borders - I certainly hope they don't go out of style! I have some of my best life memories around the discoveries I found in used book stores!

Monica Saucedo
Monica Saucedo4 years ago

I'm gonna miss Borders sooo much!! Whenever I went to the US I'd look forward to a visit to the local Borders, and spend hours there.

Carole R.
Carole R.4 years ago

I sort of miss the smaller, privately owned book stores. I know they bare going the way of the cassette due to kindles, ect.. They were always a gre4at place to hang out, visit with friends and look for treasures on the back shelves.

Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold4 years ago

I loved Borders. Whatever I wanted they either had or got for me. I am one of those people who can't survive without a book by my side. Unfortunately, I am afraid I will have to give up and us a Nook or such. I am sorry to say that our children and grandchildren will probably never know the thrill of finding, holding and reading just the right book. I was not allowed to run free in Borders, there was always a limit to what I could spend and boy did that cause problems. Books in the paper form are an experience everyone should have. For this reason, I even hope that Barnes & Noble makes it and any other bookstore as well.

Sharon H.
Sharon H.4 years ago

I love real books. I like to hold a book and turn the pages. To me, an electronic version just isn't the same. I go to Barnes and Noble and they have the most wonderful atmosphere in the one I go to. I also buy a lot of books from Amazon...I'm trying to keep all the books I buy now because I want to eventually have a small library of my own.

Paul Burke Journey Home
Paul Burke4 years ago

Thats why they have to have live music and sell coffee - the bookstores need to branch out and expand their business model

Carol B.
Carol Burk4 years ago

Bookstores in general still exist, and in our city there are now two new "independent" bookshops since Borders was closed. Long live the hopes of all book lovers!

Laure H.
Laure H.4 years ago

Used book stores seem to be thriving....

Portland Neola

A Borders store did closed down by where I work. For the last two weeks, the staff has been disassembling the book shelves. It will not be long before the building is vacant.

I used to go to book stores often. I loved walking around, checking out the selections, and drinking coffee in the snack area. I always walked out with a new book or two.

For convince reasons, I started shopping online with Barnes and Nobles and Amazon. And, since Amazon provides free shipping on orders of $25 and more, I obviously buy my books at Amazon.

But, lately, after understanding a little of what Kindle Books are all about, I began contemplating on making the transition into digital books that can be store on a Kindle 6” device with built-in Wi-Fi. Nowadays, one can get 3G with it and I think it is free, but I am not sure.

Also, many libraries now have digital books. We may be losing our traditional way of reading books before long, which also means the hardcopies will become collectors’ pieces.

Patricia A.

I used to shop at out local bookstore until my husband lost his job. I use Amazon for used books, and we have a great used bookstore. They give you credit for books returned and sell at a very low price.