My little bibliophile heart is weeping because my favorite bookstore might just be going under. Borders has filed for bankruptcy and is closing over 200 stores nationwide. This New York Times article basically says that Borders didn’t adapt fast enough to the rapidly changing publishing industry and has been outstripped by online retailers like Amazon and the Barnes & Noble ebook store. Right now, Borders owes various publishing houses millions. Katiebabs lists the figures in her blog post and provides more links to news stories on the subject.
Borders’ bankruptcy raises serious questions about the future of bookstores. Personally, I love to shop at bookstores. I love browsing the shelves, looking at covers, randomly picking up books and reading a few pages – not things you can really do with Amazon. I suppose the library provides a more physically interactive way to experience book shopping, but it’s not the same. In a bookstore, all the pages are clean and fresh, all the spines uncracked. Don’t get me wrong, I frequently buy used books. But in a library, none of the books are yours. You can’t put them on your shelf forever and pull them out to reread on a rainy day when the mood strikes you. Returning a book to the library always feels like saying goodbye. And to me, ebooks will never entirely replace real, physical books with pages I can turn, but that’s a topic for another day.
Once the four stores in my area close, I will no longer to be able to shop at Borders on a regular basis. But there are still a couple of Barnes & Nobles near me, which is probably where I’ll do most of my post-Borders book shopping. But I’ll miss Borders because it’s a better bookstore than Barnes & Noble in several ways. (This is my opinion, based on personal experiences at my local booksellers.)
- Books from Borders are always in good condition. I don’t know why, but it seems like many of the books on the shelves of my local Barnes & Noble have been roughly handled with bent covers and shelf wear around the spine and edges. This is not how a new book should look. I’ve found that Borders doesn’t have this problem, perhaps because it’s a smaller, more intimate store.
- Borders has a free rewards program. You can sign up to receive emails containing news on special discounts and coupons (usually 33% off any one item). Barnes & Noble might send you a 10% off coupon once in a blue moon, but if you want any more savings, you have to pay a yearly fee to join their membership program.
- Borders has self-service stations. Sometimes when I can’t find a book, I don’t want to ask a staff member for help. Maybe it’s because they’re all busy or because the book has a really embarrassing title like Sexy Sparkling Vampire Luv! Maybe the cover has a half-naked pirate and a busty damsel making kissy faces and I just don’t want to be judged for my choice of reading material. Whatever the reason, I love that Borders has self-service stations where I can look up where to find the book myself without having to ask someone. Barnes & Noble needs this.
I sincerely hope that Borders can bounce back from this. There’s some talk in the New York Times article about Borders merging with Barnes & Noble, which I think is better than it going under completely. But the future of Borders is very uncertain. In the meantime, I’ll continue shopping there until my stores close. I must admit that I’m very excited for the great savings to be had at the going-out-of-business sales (even though the fear of how much money I’ll probably spend makes my heart skip a beat).
For another perspective on the issue, check out this post by Greg at The New Dork Review of Books. Since this whole business is so depressing, here’s a little tidbit to leave you on a lighter note. In Greg’s post, he quotes this tweet from Jimmy Fallon:
"Borders filed for bankruptcy & will close 200 stores. When Sarah Palin heard, she was like ‘Finally, we’re closing the borders!’"