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A Sad Day for Borders

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 19, 2011

Today is a sad day for Borders and for everyone in the publishing industry. It’s the first day of their going out of business sale after declaring bankruptcy. I went to the store and saw a long checkout line snaking all the way from the front to the back, people’s arms filled with books. Where had they been during normal business hours? If all these people had come into the store then, maybe Borders wouldn’t be having financial woes today.

Magazines were forty percent off so I started there. Then I roamed the aisles, picking out a few things I books2 might not have bought otherwise. People loaded all kinds of things into their baskets: children’s books, puzzles, gifts, hardcover novels, novelty notebooks, and more. I can understand how adults may become more comfortable reading an e-book on their Kindle, but kids will never lose the pleasure of thumbing through a pop-up book or a picture book. Do we expect to keep our children entertained via the television, computer, or handheld device? Children need to have books at home if they are to develop a love for learning and reading.

Where do we expect to browse magazines if not at the big chain bookstores? Will we have to subscribe online? I like leafing through magazines, cutting out pictures and recipes. How will I satisfy this need if I can’t browse the magazine racks and pick out issues that appeal to me?

For authors, we lose the experience of readers browsing the new release table and spotting our catchy book cover. How can we attract their attention online? Reader review sites? Genre niche sites? If we are not already a known name, do we have a chance at all?

Our choices to buy a physical print book in person will now be narrowed to Barnes & Noble, for however long they last, and to the local independent bookstores. Supermarkets and discount chains are viable alternatives but their selection is often limited to bestsellers. Will we be forced to hunt for more reads online, increasing our time spent in front of the computer? Book reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations will be just as important as ever. But things are changing, and how those are delivered is changing too. We’ll have to look online for recommendations. Or maybe we’ll let sites like Amazon recommend titles for us based on our previous purchases like they do now.

As I stood in the checkout line, I heard two opposing points of view. The man from behind said that e-books are going to take over because e-books are cheaper and it’s easier for people to download them. His female companion shook her head. “ I like to hold a book, and I like to smell it. I’ll never stop wanting to have a book in my hands.”


10 Responses to “A Sad Day for Borders”

  1. I dearly hope the woman behind you in line turns out to be right, Nancy. I hope you (we) always have magazines to leaf through, cut, and make collages from. And I hope that the sad loss of Borders leaves fertile ground for more independent bookstores than this country has seen in a long time.

  2. The worst thing is when we lose our choices, whether it’s where we choose to shop, or what we choose to buy. Ebook and print books should be able to co-exist, as should varied types of bookstores. Or am I living in a fantasy world?

  3. timkeen40 said

    As sad as it is, the print industry is in decline and has been for the last thirty years. Sale bills and newspapers know well this steady decline. Now the book industry is feeling is as well. I peronally do not like reading long narratives on a computer screen. I lose my place, it hurts my eyes at some point, and it is just not the same as opening a good book. For someone who has hinged my writing career on Kindle publishing, I do not own one. However, I feel the writing is on the wall. Our next generation will not own books to the degree we do. Printing is a dying thing.

    I wonder what we will do with all those left over trees.

  4. I have a Kindle and love it, more for the convenience than the money. It’s easy to hold it and turn the pages, and so I find myself reading more than before. Plus I can carry several books, a magazine, and a couple of games along with me in digital format. At home, though, I still have so many books that they will probably last me a lifetime. We donate books to the local library when we’re done so other patrons can enjoy them, but I wonder how long used bookstores and Friends of the Library sales will remain in business? It would be ideal if we had the choices as Allison says but the younger generation may decide that for us. They already do everything on their Smartphones.

  5. Linda Pearl said

    My husband is a about a dinosaur business.It’s very sad for alot of people, especially during these hard economic times:(

    I have a Kindle, have been a library patron, my entire life, have joined book clubs galore, listen to books on tape,so, I am an equal opportunity reader. I will say though, I will not pay over $10.00 for a book on Kindle…I will put a hold at the library…

  6. Linda, many ebook owners feel as you do, they expect books to cost less in their digital formats. Keep in mind that publishers still have overhead expenses: editors, cover artists, marketing staff, etc. and so they must have certain costs built into the book or their days will be numbered. If the book is out in print then include warehousing and shipping and other expenses into production. This is why the “agency model” came into being, so the publisher can set the price rather than the discount bookstore. These issues are hot topics right now.

  7. I am so sad when I think of the possibility that books will be obsolete someday. Don’t be fooled that it will be cheaper to buy ebooks. Remember when we started paying for cable TV.

  8. M. E. Kemp said

    It’s a sad day when any bookstore closes, but I have to admit I didn’t patronize Borders – I made a point of buying from the indy booksellers in my area. Any book not in stock they order for me. Plus the Borders here had a very small mystery section. Marilyn

  9. I’ve been a fan of Amazon and Barnes & Noble myself. Our local B&N always was more supportive of author events.

  10. We don’t have any indi book stores on the West side of Melbourne. So I’m really sad to see Borders go since they have such a huge collection. They’re also the only place I can purchase international magazines.

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