A Knee-Jerk Reaction to Border’s Liquidation

Border’s announced that they will liquidate their remaining assets and shut down their business. 10,700 employees will be looking for new jobs once their 399 stores lock up for the last time.

I worked at a book store while journeying through my college years. It was my favorite job, perhaps of all time: stocking books, recommending books, smelling books (yes, sometimes I would open a book and stick my nose in it – that smell is incredible – and if you caught a cold soon after buying a book from Encore Books and Music in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I apologize).

Book stores represent some of my favorite places in the world: some of my earliest memories are of my mom taking me to a hole-in-the-wall bookstore in the heart of Amish country where I eagerly bought my next Hardy Boys book with a crumpled up $5 bill; Aaron’s Books in Lititz is one of my more recent discoveries, an amazing Indie bookstore with a friendly staff and great selection.

I hope book stores continue to thrive, I really do, but the truth is that the publishing industry has never been about book stores. It’s never been about agents. It’s never been about publishers or bookstores or even authors.

The publishing industry has never even been about books.

I think that because the industry has been able to use publishers and agents and bookstores and authors to sell books, it’s easy to forget what the whole thing is actually about.

It’s about stories.

People want to read amazing stories, and as the economy changes, as technology changes, the flow of stories from a writer’s mind to a reader’s mind has begun to challenge the accepted paths. Something I never imagined is beginning to happen: that flow has even begun to bypass the physical book itself.

If the day comes that I cannot take my children to a book store to peruse the shelves, that will be a sad day indeed. But make no mistake: the demise of Border’s does not mark the demise of stories. It simply serves as a stark reminder that, somehow, the traditional path traveled by the story has been diverted.

Stories will still be created; readers will still be consuming them; and someone will be making money somewhere in that transaction.

12 Replies to “A Knee-Jerk Reaction to Border’s Liquidation”

  1. There is obviously something going on in the publishing world with things like iPads and Kindles being more and more readily used. But also, the economy is carving out the bloated entities that arose in the 90s. I love big bookstores, but some of these big stores cannot compete within the largely diverse market anymore. My hope is that it will bring back a variety of niche markets, smaller bookstores, etc, like the ones you are describing will get more customers. There will be a wider variety of what we call “mom and pop” stores again because the customer is ruling again. So, where in the past all anyone could read was a book, now one can read a book OR a Kindle. You will now have a smaller store to shop at for books or you can shop online. That’s my hope but maybe it will just all happen online. Kristi and I are with you on the smell of books, we love it! So if books do become extinct, I want a book smelling app for my iPad whenever I get one, that will constantly give off the smell of a good book.

  2. I sure hope we didn’t put our nose in the same book…

    …because I did the same thing. And that job at Encore was a major part of my life–it could be that it was my first real job or that I met and worked with people I wouldn’t have met anywhere else or that I was able to share my intense love of reading with complete strangers. The best days were the ones where I led grandmothers through the children’s section and filled their arms with “must-reads”….

    I’m an admitted Kindle/Nook-hater. I can’t imagine not being able to write in the margins, judge the book by its cover, and, yes, smell the pages…but every once in a while, reality grabs me when I grab my iPod, and I realize that others are doing with books what I’ve already done with music. The last “real” cd I bought was at a concert–a year ago. I love the portability, ease of use, options… But I know many people who scorn iPods and buy albums (remember those? I don’t even think we own a turntable…) because they say the experience, all around, is better–sound, art, and maybe even smell. :)

    So I don’t know where I land with this. I’d much rather buy my books from Byron Borger at Hearts and Minds in York than online from Amazon. But it’s an expensive habit…and it seems that for now, the online market is winning.

    [And now I’m fighting a desire to rearrange my bookshelves…..]

  3. One of my favorite things do to in the world is haunt the stacks at used bookstores just to see what other people have read and loved. There’s a little one near where I live, and the proprietors are pretty savvy: buy a current bestseller, return it within a couple weeks, and get the full purchase price in trade credit. Not only this, they’ve also got an Amazon affiliate account, so if one prefers and eBook, they at least get a percentage. I think all savvy shop owners should adapt like to the times like this.

    Oh, lest I forget: I love Owen Meany! Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. Thanks fir the shout out. Even though Borders was our competition for sales and events, we are saddened by this news. If folks continue to use online only entities (Which don’t pay state taxes or support the local economy and community) then more bookstores will end up shuttered. While the stories will still be written the curators that sell, print, promote, edit, etc will not be around to make sure the good stories are read

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Sam. Are there ways that readers can support their local bookstores even within the e-reader or online purchasing movement?

      1. Folks can go to Indiebound.org to find their local bookseller, find which indies sell ebooks (which can be read on EVERY device excpt Kindlescmindle), on this site you can also make wishlists and email to friends and family, read professional reviews (not the stacked ones on the river), and watch author videos…not to mention purchase books from indie booksellers accross the country.

      2. Forgot to mention that Indiebound has an affiliate program where if you link to them on a blog or website & someone buys the book youn get $. Pays at a better rate than the river, and you aren’t breaking any tax laws ’cause the ABA collects sales tax (which also means an entire state won’t be dropped when legislators decide to collect on sales taxes owed by online companies)

  5. Is it actually possible that we worked at Encore at the same time? Should I have known this about you? Most definitely.
    But you are right. Books may fade (although I really hope not)but stories are eternal.

  6. I feel the same way about book stores! I worked at an independent Christian book store for 7 years, which only increased my love for all things book-related. I’m so saddened by the news of Borders closing and I hate when people suggest that real books will be replaced by eBooks. That may be but I hope it doesn’t happen for a long time. I love the heft of a book in my hand, underlining here and there, judging my progress, and yes, the smell.

    Oh, and that book store I worked at? It closed a couple of years back because it could no longer compete with the crazy tactics employed by Amazon, as well as places like Walmart carrying the Big Sellers at steep discounts. Yes, discounts are nice (I’ve even been known to shop at Amazon from time to time) but we need to support our local book stores. Nashville only has one left right now, though there are plans for 2 more to come this fall.

Comments are closed.