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The End of the Story: Borders To Close

The End of the Story: Borders To Close

 

The story’s over for Borders, the beleaguered bookseller. The 40-year-old company, which began as a used bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, had declared bankruptcy in February, at which time it closed a third of its 650 stores. While the Najafi Companies, which owns the Books-of-the-Month Club, had agreed to buy Borders for $215.1 million, the deal was rejected by a committee of Borders’ biggest unsecured creditors. The committee had contended that Najafi could liquidate Borders without the creditors benefiting, says the New York Times.

It’s a gloomy ending for Borders and for booklovers. Borders still has 399 stores and 10,700 employees; it is expected to close some of those stores as soon as Friday.

Just this morning, I wrote about the rise of bookless libraries at colleges and universities. Now it seems that more communities will be bookstoreless, smaller independent bookstores having themselves been swallowed up by mega-stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble in the past decades. As the New York Times comments,

The news exposed one of publishers’ deepest fears: that bookstores will go the way of the record store, leaving potential customers without the experience of stumbling upon a book and making an impulse purchase. In the most grim scenario, publishers have worried that without a clear place to browse for books, consumers could turn to one of the many other forms of entertainment available and leave books behind.

The shuttering of Borders will also have an effect on the publishing world:

Publishers said with Borders gone, they would plan for smaller print runs and shipments. Employees at major publishing houses worried that layoffs could be imminent, as many companies have dedicated staff members that work only with Borders.

The closing could have a particular impact in paperback sales. Borders was known as a retailer that took special care in selling paperbacks, and its promotion of certain titles could boost them to best-seller status.

No bricks and mortar bookstore seems able to withstand the Amazon juggernaut; Barnes & Noble has been up for sale for the past year, too. It’s hard to withstand the “you save $X!” that Amazon puts beside the price it sells an item for, not to mention the sheer vastness of Amazon’s inventory.

But therein lies the tragedy behind Borders closing. Bookstores were never really about just selling stuff. They were — are — community spaces, offering a place for readers of many ages to meet and talk (especially if the store houses a café) and engage in (pardon the grandiose language) something like the life of the mind. Bookstores were magical places to me when I was growing up. Toys were things my sister and I only got as presents on holidays and special occasions. But we could always get a book and my parents never turned down a request to visit a library.

On a more positive note, even though bookstores are becoming an extinct breed, the hunger for a good read, in paper or on an e-reader, seems as great as ever, based on the vast droves of Harry Potter fans. People say the current generation of college students is totally at home with and inclined to use digital devices. Yet I’ve noted that many of my students have a decided preference for good old-fashioned books they can scribble notes in; that they can read while waiting for the bus or on the bus with no worries of a dead battery. People want to filch laptops and iPads but not — think about it — books.

As Shakespeare wrote:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Goodbye, Borders — but please keep supporting independent sellers like Powell’s and your local bookstore (if there’s still one near you).

Related Care2 Coverage

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Will Books Vanish From University Libraries?

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273 comments

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1:59PM PST on Nov 14, 2011

thanks

9:36PM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

I understand (but do not concur with) this author's loyal identification with his subject: the bookstore going the way of the dinosaur. To my way of thinking, it's difficult to breathe life back into a dying technology. I spent quite a bit of time last week @ my local community library, however. The reason: a local company had dug into & severed a fiber optic cable so my internet computer service was interrupted for a period of days. I went to use the library's connection. Who needs the bulk of books about their home & person when ideas can be caught mass less mid-air? If only books had not been rendered so damned expensive, this method of communicating ideas may have been retained longer. On the other hand, perhaps if we rely more on futuristic methods of communication, forests & rainforests could be allowed to regrow. Nah, I'm not crying over obsolete technology, reading on-line saves me time, money & storage space. Maybe even my global environment...........

11:39PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

One point in favour of paper books is that they can be left in cartons, in cupboards, or anywhere that's dry and reasonably free of vermin, and be retrieved and enjoyed generations later - I'm not sure that e-books will be so durable: just think of whether those of us more than 40 years old could access any of the stuff we stored on floppy discs back in our student days.

When I was a child, we couldn't afford to buy books, but a weekly visit to the local (free) council library was a welcome source of entertainment - reading really opened my horizons in so many ways over many years, and I still love books.

I still use the council library, but I also try to shop regularly at local independent bookshops rather than using the on-line empires. I suspect that we may not realise how valuable those local hubs are until they're gone.

3:50PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

I love the feel of a book in my hand, the way the pages feel, the smell of the book as I turn the pages. It's a comforting sort of feeling. I am a person who can be left in a bookstore for days and I will be happy as anything. I enjoy learning electronically, don't get me wrong, but it's a different type of learning. In a textbook, for example, if there's something important you notice while reading, you underline it or highlight it; but with electronic books, it's not as easy to pull out a highlighter. And if I'm not mistaken, electronic books have to be charged (meaning we have to use more electricity which in turn means more mines have to be mined in order to get the ore out of the earth to produce the electricity which causes more environmental resources to be used). I think they are a good idea, but I'm not fully convinced getting rid of paperback books is the best idea.

Additionally, there are other countries who do not have access to electricity, running water, or schools, due to cost. If those sorts of things cost too much for those countries, how are they supposed to gain access to books to learn how to read (or to read if they know how) if paperback books become obsolete?

Electronic books are a luxury that rich countries have access to and think all countries should have access to. Yet no one considers that there are countries who can't even drink clean water or have access to healthcare or a shelter because they do not possess the finances for such things.

7:55AM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

Thanks for the article. I will miss Borders... but I will continue to support our local bookstores, just as I have always done. I will never give up my books.

12:20AM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

there always be books

9:44AM PDT on Aug 2, 2011

Very sorry to hear about Borders, although there were no outlets within a reasonable driving range. (Even the Chapters store is on the outer limits.)
I will continue to support my local book stores.

10:28AM PDT on Aug 1, 2011

I'm past college age. And I don't watch TV. My Abebooks and Powells are on my bookmarks list. In Phoenix, We have Bookman's Used books and video.

7:41AM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

We can't let large companies force us to buy their products. If we want to keep books we must support our book stores instead of reading online. It is still in our hands; for now.

1:04AM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

i save paper by the rubbish they put in news papers theses days (I DONT BUY NEWS PAPER)
i get my news on the tv or web

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