Borders, Bankruptcy and Writers
Posted on February 16, 2011 Posted by John Scalzi 61 Comments
E-mails coming in today from people wondering how the Borders bankruptcy will affect writers in general and me in particular, with some others wondering if royalties for the books they buy at Borders will get to the authors who wrote them, and whether they should continue shopping at Borders at all.
Well. First, CE Petit has some initial thoughts on what the bankruptcy means for Borders customers, and also authors, here.
For everyone who doesn’t want to bother with that analysis, here’s my thumbnail version:
For customers, provided your local Borders doesn’t close (and apparently a couple hundred will), you shouldn’t see too much different in an immediate sense, with the exception that some books may not be available because some publishers have cut off service to the company.
For writers, there may be a lot of back-end headaches, related to the fact that Borders owes lots of publishers lots of money — about $270 million as of today — and while Borders suggests (if I am reading this page correctly) that they will be able to pay publishers on invoices filed after today, everything billed before that date is now tied up in bankruptcy court proceedings, and who knows when or if or how much of those payments will be made.
What does all this mean for you, the concerned consumer? As far as I understand it (and I could be wrong, I am not a lawyer, etc):
1. Theoretically, for books that come into Borders after today, and are then sold, the publisher will be paid.
2. But that book you bought as a holiday gift in December? Yeah, Borders might still owe the publisher for that, and now it’s a court matter.
3. If the publisher hasn’t been paid for the book by Borders, whether the publisher will then pay the author for that sale, completely or partially (and sooner rather than later), depends on a lot of variables, including the specific wording of contract points.
So basically, if you’re worried that the Borders bankruptcy is going to screw writers, you’re using the incorrect tense. That screwing has already happened, and now we just have to wait for the effects to catch up to us. We may be additionally screwed from here, of course. We’ll have to see what happens.
Will this affect me personally? I’m sure it will, although in the short term I am well-insulated financially; other writers will not be so lucky. In the medium term I expect this will oblige me and my agent to pay close attention to contract points. In the longer term, well, if the second-largest brick-and-mortar book retailer in the US goes swirling, this is will obviously have an impact on how I make my living. It’s always something. Then again, “it’s always something” describes everyone’s economic life these days.
Some folks have asked me whether they should continue to buy books (and books of mine) from Borders. Well, speaking only for myself and not for my publisher or any other writer, if Borders is what you have as your local bookstore, and my books are in stock, and you want to buy them, go ahead. My publishers and Borders will sort it out at some point.
Borders has been good to me in the past — it ordered copies of The God Engines, and a hardcover novella isn’t an easy thing to place in a chain store — and their science fiction buyers have been enthusiastic about my stuff. So I’m willing to extend them some personal credit, and hope they’ll get their act together sometime in the near future. Whether other authors (and more importantly, their publishers) feel as sanguine about Borders at the moment is another matter entirely.
Good points, glad it shouldn’t be hurting you.
Unfortunately, my local Borders is on the list, and I will be sad to see it go. We shopped their regularly and I hope the staff finds other work soon.
So Borders joins Waldenbooks and B Dalton, although I can’t believe anyone in the industry is honestly surprised. Rumors of Borders impending bankruptcy have been swirling since 2008, if not earlier. Although, to be honest myself, the industry has been amazingly blinkered about the problems with the business model of writer-agent-publisher-reseller for as long as I’ve been a part of it, which is only 5-10 years. But the first couple of years I spent blinking in wonderment, thinking, “really? rly? OMG, rotflmao.” I still think it’s all sheer craziness. Adorable, but crazy.
Because I’m a lazy so-and-so (or rather, I have a chronic medical condition that makes getting out to the mall a living nightmare), I generally buy your books (and other people’s books) at Amazon. Except for the one I got as a Christmas gift for my husband, which I ordered form YOUR local bookstore. (He absolutely LOVES the book, by the way… it’s the one about movies.) And the couple I’ve ordered from Subterranean Press. If I have the energy to get to a brick and mortar bookstore, I head to our local independent bookseller, The Book House. I don’t know if our local Borders is slated for closure, but it’s at the mall that has the highest “oh gods, how I hate going there” factor. I’m probably one of the reasons they’re failing, but they shouldn’t have put their store in the most horrendous mall in the Capital District.
Anyway, I’ll keep buying books. And exchanging them with friends, coworkers and perfect strangers. And visiting the library. I’m a book junkie. Authors are my pushers. :-)
The bookstores for the community colleges in Kentucky are run by Borders. We already have enough problems with getting books to the students. I can’t imagine this will make things easier.
Constance@2 says this was seen coming for a while, but I’m picturing the USSR collapsing and Bush Sr. saying to the CIA “A little warning would have been nice.”
Other than that…. just wow.
I’m sad about it because that my closest Borders (and closest physical bookstore) is being closed. On the other hand, I bought few books there anymore. When I want a book, I tend to go to amazon because, and this is very practical (shudder) of me, I’m too poor to buy with those brick-and-mortar prices and tax.
Still, I’m sad to see it go, though I’m more worried about what it might say about the state of reading for pleasure in our society anymore than some sort of corporate partiality. Here’s hoping it bounces back in a meaningful way that addresses its growing irrelevance!
I’d also heard rumors of this coming for the past couple years, but I had kept hoping they’d be able to get things back on track before it came to this. Of the three Borders nearest me (within about twenty miles), one already closed in December. A four (about thirty miles or so away) is on the list for these closing. The only local bookstore in the area I know of is a bit further out.
I do love my local Borders. It’s always a pleasure to go in and just wander about, and usually come out with far more than I planned to buy. It’s actually where I first stumbled across both Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades quite by accident. I hope they get their things sorted out and get people paid and hang around. While I’m not opposed to buying my books off Amazon or BN.com (and music and movies more often any more, since the local Best Buy has largely scaled back their inventory of both), there’s still something enjoyable about wandering around a brick and mortar book store that I’d greatly miss if they started going the way of the dodo (or CompUSA and Circuit City, as it were).
@Greg #5: Really? You must not read retail news very much… I work for a company that owns a lot of commercial real estate so I tend to be aware of what is being said in the trades and the newspapers’ business sections, and Borders’ demise has been circling for a landing since at LEAST 2008. I’m surprised they lasted this long.
Aww, bummer John. I just bought the entire set of Old Mans war again at of all places Borders.
I live over 100 miles away from Phoenix and this is the book store my wife and I always shop at because it is right off the freeway on our way into Phx. We go shopping once a month when we come up for Dr’s Appt.s. I hope the Borders we go to stays open. I don’t like ordering online, I think it is a little de-humanizing to only deal with computers and or people on the phone. Given the choice I like mom and pop stores. But they are hard to find anymore. Big Box’s have taken over the market.
Good luck with the monies due to you!
My girlfriend works for Borders at one of the stores in NYC, the one near Wall Street, they are closing that one down and they have put a freeze on hiring, there will be no transfer of positions between stores. The staff being let go are pretty pissed and are very down seeing as there are people still waiting to receive severance packages two years after being let go.
One of the reasons that Borders has continued to fail to compete in the online marketplace is that they made the mistake of hiring IBM Global Services to develop their online presence. Millions of wasted dollars and at least a couple of years of wasted time put them too far behind the curve.
Well, damn. I bought 3 of your books in December, all from a Borders.
Yes, the store closings are a little sad just because the physical stores were nice comfortable places to browse. Fortunately the one closest to me will remain open, but others will not. I’m most sorry for those who don’t have another close alternative. I also most fear what this may mean for the other book stores; I hope the good ones can still survive.
Like JT@7 I too often came out of the store having purchased things I never had any intent when entering. Maybe I’m just not part of the young generation, but there is something so satisfying about just browsing about and seeing what kinds of things you can stumble upon, and being able to physically handle the products. I’ve never had that experience online. Though I should also note that for the very few volumes in the store that are kept shrink-wrapped, it keeps me feeling disconnected as-if online and so I haven’t bought anything I can’t open and thumb through.
What I’d really like to see as a customer who enjoys the brick-and-mortal experience would be something that’s a cross between a library and a Border’s-style bookstore/coffeeshop. Good libraries are amazingly fun places to explore and you aren’t limited to just the current/popular wares. But sometimes you find things that you want to own and not just borrow, or you want a very warm comfortable place to lounge while thumbing though something.
I think that new styles of reading, mainly ebooks, open up different ways to buy. I’ve bought several books recently from the Big Ideas feature here and from reviews elsewhere precisely because I could click, buy and have the book. I’m not good at making lists to use later.
But like you, I love browsing. It’s the feeling of being surrounded by the things you love – books everywhere! – combined with the relaxed feeling of just picking up a book, reading a bit, deciding no, not that one or yeah, that sounds cool. Having a book catch your eye and you remember you’d been meaning to read that author or something. The serendipity in other words. I see them as different experiences and I hope both survive.
Borders… well I get the feeling it wasn’t run that well. If they’re closing 200 or 600 stores and these were underperforming stores then the stores should have been closed long before this. Or invested in to bring performance up. Or closed and another store opened in a better location in that town.
Just an anecdotal observation about the under-performing stores: I’ve had the luxury of actually having two Borders stores fairly close to me (Cincinnati area), and I have/continue to shop at both fairly regularly. The one that is closing is actually the newest, is a little bit nicer aesthetically, and is in a “richer” part of town. But inside they are both more or less the same from a customer point-of-view. I can’t really say which appeared busier because I tend to visit each in quite different times of day.
However the one that is closing, despite being in a more influential high-income high-growth area, also has a lot of nearby competition. There’s a very nice B&N not too far away, plus other smaller and niche stores. But the one that is remaining open is just about the only bookstore of any significance for a very large area. I don’t know what the profitability of each was, but I wonder if Borders has also taken into account the availability of other nearby book sellers when compiling its to-close list.
Meh, I actually liked Borders. They carried video games as well as books. Ours closed a couple of years ago, sadly, and I have missed it.
On the other hand, I can’t justify buying books from anywhere but Amazon these days. The prices are just unbeatable, and since I got my Kindle a couple years back, well… That was all she wrote. I’m a direct contributer to the downfall of the B&M bookstore. Of course, I’m also a direct contributer to the rise of ebook sales! I am at once a destroyer and a facilitator, I guess.
Just from my (admittedly limited and naive) knowledge of economics; wouldn’t the best option for keeping authors from being screwed on future sales at Borders be to buy them at Borders? If the company doesn’t get any income they can’t pull out of debt, right? The question of “They’re bankrupt, so we should stop buying from them, right?” is kind of off-base.
(Of course, if you put money into them and they fail, the publisher/author is screwed, but if you don’t put money into them, they fail and the publisher/author is still screwed — albeit to a lesser extent.)
@Deron #15: You may have a point about the proximity to other book stores influencing Borders’ choices. Of the three stores flagged for closure in the St Louis area, two have a B&N store within half a mile. Most of the surviving stores (to my knowledge) do not.
The Borders closest to me has been obviously struggling the past couple of years – they’ve rearranged things a couple times, each time removing bookshelves & significantly reducing the number of books they stocked. I haven’t noticed the other Borders I’ve been in making those changes, at least not to such an extent. So I wasn’t surprised that particular store was chosen for closure.
The UK Borders and Books Etc stores closed some time ago. My town had a smaller Books Etc which I shopped at quite a bit, and I liked going to the larger Borders stores in London. My town still has a Waterstones and WH Smith (the latter of which is pretty much useless for specialist books like sci-fi) but I still miss the Books Etc. I order a lot from Amazon UK and the US site but I still like browsing in a store and the loss of Books Etc just means less choice in the local area.
Late last week, the business press was speculating that Borders would file for Chapter 11 on Monday or Tuesday, so I was expecting it (finally). I shop for books in both Northern VA and Western MD, though I also use Amazon because of my preference for specialty books and such that aren’t available on the average store shelf.
I’ve compared the chains and B&N always seemed generally cleaner and better run (very subjective, of course). It seemed that the worse their financial condition became, the more ‘run down’ the stores appeared. I’ve been through a few Chapter 11’s and one Chapter 7 in the airline business. I know how it affects the front line people – I’ve been there. I feel for those people that have lost their jobs, as well as for those that remain. It’s tough on either side of that fence, not to mention that it’s depressing as Hell. I take no comfort or delight in people losing their jobs, even at competitor’s businesses. I exoect some of the Borders stores in my shopping area to close, but I’ve heard no details yet.
I do love browsing bookstores and libraries, as well as the feel of a hardcopy in my hands. (Guess that makes me an old fart.) I have no problem with e-books, as I’m a tech writer and a lot of what I work on ends up online. I guess that makes me ahybrid of sort
I wish the Border’s employees the best of luck, expecially those that are now out of work in a horrific job market. I’m 53 and this job market is the worst I’ve seen.
What surprised me, looking at the list of store closings, is that the two closest stores to home – literally three miles apart on the same street, 93rd & Metcalf and 119th and Metcalf – are staying open. Whereas the Lawrence store, the only big-box bookstore in a college town, is closing. As is the Wichita, KS store, though at least Wichita has several alternatives.
One thing I’d note about both closing stores – they were significantly smaller than the ‘typical’ Borders.
I think what’ll hurt the most is small genre and non-fiction authors in the short term. This is the stuff that relies on accidental discoveries while browsing, and there is just going to be less chance to browse. Of course I do wonder how the lack of the ability to discover by browsing will hurt future authors if the trend to ebooks and online purchases continue. Most of my bookshelf I got not by going out to buy, but were purchases I made after some light window browsing or bought along with something else. If I order online I just get the thing I set out to get and nothing else.
The Borders near me is one of those that is closing. I feel particularly bad because I really like the staff there. They are quirky, interesting, knowledgeable, and wonderfully helpful. Overhearing conversations over the past few months, most of them had been shifted to part-time and were pretty frustrated, but they never took it out on the customers. I hope they all have an easy time finding work, tho that is almost certainly wishful thinking. I’ll miss seeing them.
This has been the first time I’ve actually uttered the words “Man, I’m glad my book isn’t in stores right now”.
I’ve got Amazon and ebook sales, so I’ll be okay as well. But publishers who refuse to deal in ebooks? Look out.
I must be one of the few people who regularly goes to my local Borders to make purchases and leave. I’ve determined that using their “borders rewards coupons” makes the price match, roughly, the price of ordering a book over amazon plus shipping.
I hope some local shops spring up to fill the void, otherwise it’s back to the library for me.
Actually the 119th and Metcalf store closed back in December. The 119th and Strangline store in Olathe is the other one that remains open. Still that’s only probably ten miles distance between the two. The Olathe store I believe was the newest of them, and is the only bookseller I can think of in Olathe (aside from a disorganized store in the mall), while the Overland Park store always seemed to be the main store in the area. If I was looking for something, they tended to be the one that stocked the largest and most varied inventory.
Never been to the Wichita store. I thought Lawrence still had a Hastings on 23rd and Iowa, but I haven’t been through lately so it may have closed, too. Did seem kind of strange that they were closing that one, but I wonder if maybe it’s location away from the main roads through town cut down on it’s business a bit.
> That screwing has already happened, and now we just have to wait for the effects to catch up to us. <
I will have to consider myself lucky, in that when Pocket started the Juno imprint a couple of years ago, Borders, who was already deep in the financial shithole, wouldn't stock the line. For this, I am grateful, because that means I never had sales @ Borders.
Overall, I'm sad, as Borders used to be my "go to" big box bookstore. When the chain first came into being, I lived in San Antonio and Borders was awesome. I could spend hours in there browsing & buying. Now, years later, living in the DC area, the local stores, who used to be tops at author events & stock slid downhill as if on the back of a sled in an avalanche. The last time I stopped by my closest Borders, the store was full of sidelines (a.k.a., things not books, like bookmarks, tschotchkes, etc.) I couldn't find anything new that I wanted to read.
Thought I very much buy a lot of e-books, I also love to browse a store in person, get to know the staff, buy print books there. My default store is now the Barnes & Noble in Potomac Yard (Alexandria, VA). It's close, the staff is nice, but it's still not the same as what Borders used to be.
And yes, I do think that they (the corporation) brought this on themselves. Bad business decision after bad business decision did nothing to help them survive. :(
Over the weekend I took a trip to my favorite book store, Between the Books, located in Claymont, DE. I haven’t lived down there for years, but once in a while we take at trip. I say ‘Hi’ to the owner, Greg. He’s been in operation for about 30 years, selling comics, games and books of every stripe. Whenever we visit, I give him plenty of sales. This time I bought about $140 worth of books, games and comics. He has the most extensive collection of graphic novels I’ve ever seen and can order anything you want. We also can chew the fat like nobody’s business. When the topic of Borders likely Chapter 11 came up (per a WSJ article from last week), he wasn’t shy about pointing out that he shed no tears on their behalf. More likely he’d piss on their grave, if he could (though he was more polite than that).
In his eyes, the likes of Borders (and not amazon) were responsible for changing the book seller environment in his area and elsewhere. There used to be 13 bookstores in the area, he pointed out. 13 voices, as he described them. Now he’s the only one left (and that due to his diversification into stuff ranging from Goth jewelry to anime to wargames). He lamented how, prior to the rapid expansion of Borders in the 1990s, they each had different focuses and would regularly send customers ‘down the street’ to the other stores. But, not unlike the famous mystery bookstore in LA that just shuttered it’s door, one by one his fellow bookstores disappeared. Routinely unable to offer coffee bars and deep discounted prices, they disappeared.
Know how many copies of Terry Pratchett’s work that the local Borders stocks? If you answered more than ‘one single book’, you’d be wrong. Greg proudly responded to my query that he had nearly 70% of Pratchett’s work on the shelves right then, though some was on re-order. That’s just one example of what we’ve lost. That’s to say nothing of less mainstream material.
I own a nook, and I LIKE e-books. But I like booksellers, too. Borders and B&N might have folks who could make a recommendation from their limited stock, but Greg knows his material and his customers and I would buy something based on his recommendation alone. More than once, Greg led me to things I was unaware of or had not yet seen. Hell, he did it this weekend, too. It’s why I’m still an occasional customer, even 19 years later.
I do hope that Borders pays it’s creditors, though.
A person, who will remain unnamed, noted that their child (while doing accounting work for Borders) had come to the conclusion that then current Borders CEO was running the firm in such a way so as to get paid to leave.
Not only is our nearby Borders closing, but every single Borders I have ever frequented, which is quite a few. I feel a bit cursed.
Sad news indeed, but not unexpected. I must also chime in on this being especially sad having only just bought quite a few books from them over the holidays and also, years ago, having stumbled across Android’s Dream when browsing a Borders.
I’m not sure if CE Petit has ever used a Kobo, but I’ve had no trouble whatsoever with the one I bought in November. I’ve bought books from borders.com and kobobooks.com, borrowed library books using ADE without any problem, and used Calibre to download non-DRMed books (including some lovely Scalzi ones from PDF).
The Tampa/St. Pete area will be hit hard by the closings. We’re losing 4 stores, not including the WaldenBooks stores on their way out. There will be one Borders left within 75-100 miles of Tampa.
I generally buy books at Politics and Prose, a fine local bookstore in NW Washington DC, and pay list price. They have a wonderful and knowledgable staff. However, they don’t carry much SF, and I use Borders for that. Generally I get at least one 30%-off coupon a week and I use that there. On the rare occasions that they issue 40%-off coupons, I rush over and buy a big fat cookbook. If the local Borders folds, I’ll probably transfer my SF purchases to the Barnes and Noble store in Bethesda, just a couple of miles away.
I always find it amazing that there are so many people in the world unable to think on their own and need someone to tell them what to think or do about a given matter. Just goes to show it is not just religious folks that fall into that category.
Anyway, It is sad to see Borders go through this. I am sure there were many mistakes made that brought this on upon themselves. My local Border’s is very nice and I browse there frequently but seldom buy from them. It is cheaper for me to buy from Amazon once I know what I want to buy. Even more so since I have my Kindle.
Sad to see this happen but the troubles at Borders has been online for a long time as well as observable by the state of their stores (in my area). The one we go to is across the street from a B&N (we go to both) and store upkeep is very different.
‘Course, our local MomPop book store (we live 25 miles away from town with malls and chain stores) also closed last summer. They’d opened in 2007; bad timing.
I imagine that publishers are pretty far down the list of who gets paid because they aren’t secured creditors. They have no claim on any assets of Borders other than their cash flows. What happens in a bankruptcy is that everyone who the store owes money to – publishers, mortgage holders, landlords and bondholders – gets into a bit scrum about who gets paid what and when. Lots of folks have a more senior right to the cash than publishers. Borders can continue to operate on current cash flow (thus a reorg and not a liquidation) so the bankruptcy court tells everyone with an pre-existing debt to hold fast and let the bankruptcy court sort it out. Current vendors have a claim on current cash flows.
I actually worked at Borders in the mid-2000s and it was a pretty good place to work, but I sensed that things were going a bit wobbly even then when they sank ridiculous amounts of money into redesigning the store I was at. Twice. We were the prototype for the “Store of the Future” or somesuch and the only thing it really did was annoy the customers who had to figure out where their favorite section was all over again each time.
When I found out later they were starting to cut benefits for employees (such as the nifty $20 gift card we got each month) I knew they were pretty much doomed.
@Travis Butler: There’s a Hastings in Lawrence still, which is like meh to the power of meh in terms of big box stores, but I’ll probably buy from that before Amazon (though the two independent bookstores downtown are good). For some reason, having my books airlifted to me like 99 miles, and then having to drive down to the UPS office for that last mile because no one is home to pick it up bothers me. I’ve bought stuff from there, but not nearly as much as from the bricks and mortar store. There’s nothing like the feeling of coming home with a stack of books you picked up and are ready to plow through.
YoYo: It’s not looking for someone to tell me what to think. It’s looking to people with more sources of information and more relevant expertise to provide me additional information which I can use in formulating my own opinions. I like to not be any more ignorant or context-lacking than I really need to be. Which is why I’m glad for this roundup from Our Host.
One other thing for readers to note: gift cards can have their value decreased (or even zeroed) during bankruptcy proceedings. (In some states, such as California, gift cards are not allowed to expire. Except in bankruptcy.)
Another former Border’s employee here – I was there for about a year in 1996. This was the golden age of Border’s expansion after K-Mart had gotten rid of the company and BPI had been formed, and BPI & B&N were furiously building out stores.
Even then, the Border’s rank and file kept asking how the hell the company was sustaining such growth.
I checked the list of stores to be closed. Besides 100 Broadway, they are closing the one at Park Avenue and 57th Street and 2nd Avenue and 32nd Street. I used to shop the one on lower Broadway when I worked downtown. I regularly go to the Park Avenue and 2nd Avenue stores. They are second stops for several types of trips — Park Avenue when I go to a local library branch and 2nd Avenue when I go the movie theater next door. Surprisingly they aren’t closing the store at Atlas Park shopping mall in Queens. I will definitely miss the stores they are closing — they were nice places to stop for tea and a snack and books/magazines.
One thought though on how they stocked books. Last year, Diana Gabaldon had new Outlander series novel out. While Borders sent me an e-mail about the new book, I couldn’t afford to buy a hardcover at the time. B&N on the other hand, had a cardboard rack with copies of the earlier books in paperback. I bought a several that I didn’t have because I came to the series only recently. I told a Borders’ manager that they really should have had the earlier books in stock and not just the new one.
I’m now the fourth person with an interest/sadface over the (non-) future of the Lawrence, Kansas store to comment in this thread. I wonder how much selection bias lies in that datum, but it must be statistically significant even so. There aren’t nearly as many people representin’ from Ithaca, New York, which is an outwardly similar town in the same situation.
Travis @21, JT @26, MyName @38 —
In short, this closing makes matters worse than the bad they already are. Even Borders (which was, admittedly, forced to appeal to too many customer groups at once to be a good destination for any of them) wasn’t the sort of place where one could first think, “I want a book by/about x,” and proceed to purchase a title in that domain without fail.
[Note to those elsewhere: Kansas is one of the few states that wrings sales taxes out of Amazon, but that doesn’t change the calculus much — even in Lawrence, which offers the highest sales tax in the state on account of increases that were voted in before the Recession That Made Wall Street Rich.]
My ultimate judgment — based on what I’ve seen/heard during this bankruptcy furore, and seen out and about in the local area — is that the stampede to re-engineer book retail as an experience is well underway. It’s not until just now that I came to that judgment, since I’m a Web guy who hails originally from Portland… itself a not insignificant detail.
My biggest worry is that the community (and the City Commission, and the Downtown Lawrence Assoc.) will need to work that much harder at getting tenants into the vacant space in the 700 block of New Hampshire Street, especially with the new building going up on the 900 block. Le sigh. (On the other hand, maybe — just maybe! — they can turn it into the downtown grocery that people have been begging to get for a while now. It’s roughly the same size as the Merc&rsuqo;s old space on Ninth, so it might just work.
P.S. to the proprietor: please bring back the Preview button.
Just to fact-check myself at #4, the bookstores for Kentucky Community Colleges are actually Barnes & Noble. My goof.
All three Austin-area Borders locations are closing. Good news for BookPeople, I guess, but still . . .
We have 2 Borders within about 4 miles of each other; one is a superstore, and the other is a ‘regular’ Borders (smaller, sans coffee bar) in a mall. I was just over yakking with the mall Border’s manager, and she hasn’t heard that either of the remaining stores in our area is due to close. This is mostly good, as our library has ties with both stores, but I think that at least one of them (likely the mall store, due to exorbitant rent) will have a ‘surprise’ closure within the next year. The Borders Express about 12 miles away closed maybe 4 months ago; it used to be a Waldenbooks, but was on the skids ever since taking over for them.
Both of the Borders convenient to my house are closing, though there are others in the expanded SF Bay Area remaining open I think.
It’s 10 more miles to the next nearest big bookstore (a B&N), and 15 more miles to the nearest good speculative fiction oriented independents (both in Berkeley). I can do that, but it’s a much larger expedition.
Apparently among other things, didn’t learn the WebVan lesson (if expanding rapidly, separate business units in a manner that allows non-globally-fatal responses to business turn-downs – i.e., have regional subsidiary companies you can individually chapt 11/7 write-off without killing the chain).
The original Borders in Ann Arbor was one of the reasons I went to grad school there in the 1980s. Seriously. They stocked Arkham House books, for pity’s sake! It was giant steps up from the B. Dalton/Waldenbooks mall model, and just about the greatest thing I’d ever seen in my life
When they started expanding, I did understand that independents would fall by the wayside. But it was, frankly, exciting to find that downtown Ann Arbor browsing experience replicated in Detroit, Chicago, etc. When they started adding music in the 90s, it was one stop shopping run amuck.
By that time, I’d moved to the west side of Michigan; I think the independents there used Borders’ distribution system, so they never tried to compete in that neck of the woods, even after Barnes & Noble moved in. Still, when I went back to Ann Arbor/Detroit every month or so, in addition to seeing family & tending to business, the question was always: what would I find at Borders that I wouldn’t anywhere else?
Amazon put paid to the surprise factor, obviously, but it wasn’t until 2 or 3 years ago (after Borders gutted the music sections and started reducing the books in stock, even in the superstores) that I started coming up dry. No complete recordings of Stravinsky at a ridiculous discount. No BIson Books editions of Harold Lamb. Nuthin’. Just the same stuff I could find back home; Borders was no longer a destination place for me. The writing was on the wall.
I’ll be genuinely surprised if they can avoid liquidation, but I do hope it’s the case. I love online ordering & I love ebooks, but the bookstore experience Borders (and B & N) provide can’t easily be replaced — even if your local library sells coffee now.
Oddly, I can speak with some authority about 3 different locations mentioned here. The Capital Region NY store was indeed in an annoying ( but busy) space. They had a good location business-wise, but I think rent was through the roof there and they always had a crummy layout. I don’t think Ithaca would be in the same situation because they have several good used bookstores and Ithicians are very protective if local businesses. In terms of DC area, the Borders was in a high-end but strangely dying mall so I don’t find that a surprise.
Borders is part of a long line of businesses that will fail in publishing. The key problem is that publishers are still focused on consigning to retailers (note– consign, not sell) rather than sell to readers. They’ve let Amazon and to a lesser extent other platforms grab the eBook market, because as little as a year ago I heard people at Digital Book World say “Why worry about something that’s only 3% of our market?”
That’s the kind of thinking that tubed Borders. And it’s going to take quite a few more players with them. Writers produce the product. Readers consume the product. Everyone else in the middle, Lead, Follow or Get The Hell Out of The Way, aka follow Borders.
5 stores are closing in the Atlanta metroplex, which had to include the nearby store with the coffee bar.
Alas, the days of roaring up on the Harley, stalking the aisles clad in black leather and frightening the teenagers that tiptoed over to ask if I needed help, appear to be over. I really did enjoy that you could wander in on a Saturday and find a author selling and signing their wares at a small table who would have a real conversation with you. I’ve been lucky to meet and purchase works from people like Robert Buettner and Kim Harrison.
Goodbye local Borders, you will be missied by this coffee swilling ol’ biker.
Wow, never expected the Lawrence mention to draw so much attention…
@JT: I suppose that’s what happens when you’re mostly out of town for six months; I’ve been working a contract job down in Nashville. Frankly, I always liked the 93rd st. store better, so I’m not going to cry too many tears over the 119th/Metcalf store; I’m still boggled, though, that they were opened up so close to each other.
(And of course, the only Borders in Tennessee that’s closing is the one in Franklin, close to where I’m staying…)
@MyName #38: I more or less deliberately left the Hastings out because the last time I was in there, they were more of a music/video/game store than an actual ‘bookstore’. That said, I’m still glad for the Dusty Bookshelf (and still mourn J.Hood’s)… but limited as the Borders’ selection was compared to the KC Borders, it still had stuff that the independents didn’t have (and Hastings shouldn’t even get mentioned in the same sentence). I have been impressed by the KU Bookstore the last couple of times I’ve been in there, though.
If it’s any consolation, Kobo remains solvent and purchased ebooks remain valid. It is an interesting fact that Borders was the only major bookstore not to have created their own ebook solution.
(Borders resells Kobo, which is a Canadian company. You’re welcome!)
Authors might not get paid (or it might take a long time) for recent (for certain definitions thereof) purchases? Crudola! I’m anti-Amazon.com for books and not a big fan of B&N (mostly for a few historical reasons), and I’ve have various historical (and ongoing) reasons I like Borders a lot. So I’ve been trying to buy from them. And of course the gift cards I got for Xmas were mostly…Borders. I used them with glee–now, I sigh.
Thanks for the info about how this can affect authors. I didn’t realize that at all. ;-(
(I have two close friends in publishing and worry about how this’ll affect publishers, too.)
One good thing is that the Aus/NZ Borders stores were sold off some time ago, and are thus free from the repurcussions. So we can all still buy books from our local boders store (though I only do so when I cannot be bothered going to the local independant SF bookstore.)
Yeah, spring royalty statements could be a nasty shock for some of us. So not looking forward to seeing the damage this could cause. And sad because Iiked Borders. Now, I’m leery. And…I have friends who work at Borders and I’m not looking forward to the jeopardy the store closings put them in.
On an upbeat note, perhaps the collapse of Great Big Book Box Stores will herald the return of small specialty bookstores and a restored appreciation by the public of the bookselling craft.
This is the first blog post about the Borders bankruptcy from a writer’s perspective that actually has books in Borders. I for one hope they get their act together and soon. Our local store is staying open, but I’m going to use my gift cards soon. Forgot I had them, but I bet they won’t really mean much if things continue to get worse.
This whole thing makes me feel bad. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Thanks for posting from your perspective.
I remember being astounded the first time I walked into a Borders (~1989) at the big selection of sf&f that they had, including extensive backlists. Particularly in comparison to the old BDalton and Waldenbooks.
Fast forward to twenty years later, I’ve seen closings of multiple independent stores, and I don’t feel quite so bad for them (the two in my vicinity are closing). I still went and took advantage of their closing sale though–currently 20% off every book. But I’ve already ordered a couple upcoming books from the local indie store that I hope can still make it.
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