Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Borders Closing - What does it mean for the publishing industry and the readers?

The upcoming closing of Borders has me, to quote John Cage from Ally McBeal, “fraught.” I never dreamed that such a massive book chain could cease to exist. Poof! Now where will I go to fill my shopping basket with books while I drink a chai?

I know this doesn’t signal the end of the brick and mortar bookstores, but in my area, Borders is the most convenient one for me. Sure, there’s a Barnes & Noble, but it’s farther, out of the way, and in an area I don’t often find myself. I will inevitably end up going there, but probably less frequently. I suspect some people will find themselves in a similar situation.

I read that the last time Borders showed a profit was in 2006.* Is the public buying fewer books – especially here in the States amid the financial crisis – or are they buying from other vendors? Certainly Amazon has to have impacted Borders’ bottom line as well as the rise in ebook sales, which accounts for 9% of all book sales.*

Now I suppose the big question is how is the closing of Borders going to impact the publishing industry? Borders accounted for about 15% of book sales in North America last year.* It remains to be seen whether those buyers will turn to other local stores, an online retailer, ebook downloads, or simply read less, especially if they no longer have a bookstore close to where they live.

As for me, I could never read less, and I can practically hear a bunch of you die-hard readers shouting the same thing. The casual reader though… will they buy only the bestsellers because that’s what they’ll find at the grocery store, Wal-Mart, or the price clubs? That’s fine – keep buying books any way you can, people! – but I suspect it will become more difficult to discover new writers unless the reader goes out of the way to do so.

What do you think? How will Borders’ closing impact you?

* I found these statistics in articles on the internet, and I’m taking the posters’ word for their accuracy.


  1. I'm sad to see them go, and at the same time relieved that I don't have to worry about my husband's impulse buys there! I know you haven't seen our house, but we have around 2k books right now and I'm looking at buying yet another bookcase.

    I'm really hoping that this will help people find the smaller bookstores. When I was living in Chattanooga, I loved walking down the little streets downtown and finding those tucked-away stores where you could stumble across anything. There are still a couple of great used-book stores in the area, and I hope they get more business! Also, the library here always need more patronage.

    I really am sad to see Borders go--it was the closest big store to us, too, but I hope people spread their patronage.

  2. Hi Aimee,

    I'm a big fan of the used bookstores and small shops as well, but there are so few around here! I know of one place I go for used books, but that's about it.

    I understand having to find a place for all of those books! We just put together 2 new bookcases over 4th of July weekend to make a total of 8 filled with reading goodness! But there's no such thing as too many books!

  3. No profit since 2006? I just...wow...I mean...no words dude.

    I can't wrap my head around what's happening in the industry. Borders seems to have taken too long to adapt and I worry if BN may follow. I think its just a matter of time before the larger chains put in those kiosks that I've heard about (I understsand there's a bookstore by Harvard where books are printed out in the store/POD. I helps the bookstore because they don't have to preorder as many books and the customer will usually shop around for the few minutes it takes the book to print.)

    Do you know if there's any hope of Borders surviving as an ebook only distributor?

  4. I was surprised by 2006 as well! Given that, I'm surprised they managed to stay open even this long. And I too worry about BN. In the short term, I think they'll do well while they gain some of Borders' customers, but long term, who knows?

    POD is a great option for a lot of publishers - it's amazing to me how fast they can print! (And I didn't know about the Harvard store - wow!) But if they go to an all-POD kiosk style, the biggest drawback for me is we'd lose the browsing aspect of bookstores that I love. That's when I have the opportunity to see what just came out and to find new writers.

    I don't know about Borders.com... I wondered the same thing too, but since it's a matter involving bankruptcy, I suspect it's the entire company.

  5. I live in an area with no big book stores for 90 miles in any direction, and we have a few bad small bookstores, mostly used, dirty, neglected, and one incredibly great store in Gold Beach Oregon, 50 miles north of me, but i has adapted several different purposes for the community. It has used books, new books, local arts and crafts, a bakery/coffee shop, a local museum section and a meeting area for poets night and writers groups or local music performances.

    Still, I mainly go through Amazon, because, like I said, they are 50 miles north and here it is mostly just walmart, although our local WalGreens carries local art and authors including both my fantasy novels.

  6. Echo, that sounds like a fabulous store! But at 50 miles away, I can see why you primarily use Amazon. And let's face it - it's difficult to compete with Amazon's prices and selection.

  7. Borders are closing down all over Australia as well and by extension so are their subsidiary companies Angus & Robertson Books. I walk past the Borders flagship store in the city every day on my way to work and can't help feeling a little sad. It's true that they didn't really change with the times and their prices were a bit high compared to the supermarkets but I always considered Borders to be a bit of a mainstay. It'll be interesting to see where the publishing world goes from here.

  8. Hi Lan! I agree, they weren't as quick to adapt, especially to the ebook market. But I loved their stores. My friends and I used to meet once a week at our local Borders to do our book shopping. I will miss that.

  9. It's so sad that Borders is closing. So many people are going to be losing their jobs. I'm lucky in that there are a number of indie book shops within reach and a Barnes and Noble with yummy chai lattes, too, but I had a couple book signings scheduled at various Borders this fall, so ...

  10. I am sorry that Border's is closing, too, first and foremost because it will directly affect the livelihood of their employees, authors, and publishing companies and their employees as well. When a business the size of Borders closes, it has a nasty trickle-down effect on the entire industry as well. I think both some positive and some negative will come out of it.

    The first Borders I ever visited is in Rockville, MD, at the White Flint Mall. It's a huge three-story structure that dominates the mall's main entrance and has an escalator that only goes into Borders from the front door. It is the centerpiece of the whole mall, and I was and still am impressed with it. If B&N is smart they will snap that space up...if they can afford it.

    With that said, assuming the information about their financial history is true, then they have no one but themselves to blame for their demise. No, you can't control recessions or macroeconomic factors, but you CAN control how your business grows and develops. I'm guessing they expanded too quickly into high-end malls and shopping centers like White Flint and when no one had money for books or shopped Amazon for deals they started to spiral downhill.

    I will miss Borders most for their foreign books and newspapers. They had a decent selection of books in French, German, and even Russian, as well as newspapers. No other bookstore I know has that unless they specialize in foreign books. I bought many French books there.

    Adieu, Borders.

  11. Cynthia - Yes, another 10,000 or so people out of work! From what I understand, Borders has been communicative with them during the whole process, so I imagine they were job hunting before now. Even so, it sucks to have to lose your job like this!

    Sorry about your book signings...

  12. John, I love that Borders in White Flint! Three stories of books... cue the angelic music! So sad it's all being shut down.

  13. I'm sad to see them go. Bookstores are great. I worry about what it does to the B&M market as well. I guess we'll just have to see.

  14. @Shelley I think we're all in a bit of mourning over this news.

    As for what is going on with the publishing industry, I read the AAP book sales figures for this year as compared to last year, and it's very telling: adult paperback sales down 18%, ebook sales up 160%.

    While I truly love ebooks, I am sad to see fewer brick and mortar bookstores.

  15. The closest bookstore in our area is a Walden Books (under the Borders name). It's been awhile since I've purchased a book for myself there, for several reasons:

    *books are usually cheaper online and usually with free delivery
    *limited selection
    *it's still 30 minutes to get to it where my computer is right in front of me now

    Will I miss it? Not really. I don't spend enough time in one these days to care. The only time I really do make a purchase there is if I happen to be in the area and think... hmmm. I wonder what's in Walden Books. Then I usually pick up a bargain book for my son, but nothing for myself.

    Does it make me sad? Yeah. I hate to see another company going under when the economy is so bad. But at the same time, a lot of belts are tightening. People can't afford to pay more for services they can get cheaper elsewhere.

    In the end, bookstores who manage to adapt earlier will be the ones to absorb the whole Borders has left behind.