Borders Books & Music: Still in Trouble!

I may be part of a shrinking minority but I have to admit it, Borders has always been and continues to be my favorite book store.  My mother and I spent hours in the Borders store at Ward Center almost every Sunday.  While their online presence has never measured up to that of bn.com (Barnes & Noble) or Amazon, except when Borders and Amazon were linked at the hip, that wonderful brick and mortar store was, for me anyway, all that!  It still is.

Borders book store at Ward Center

I had no idea just how bad things have gotten for them in recent months.  On Monday, January 17th, Borders laid off another 45 people and, according to MarketWatch.com, the Wall Street Journal shared the news that Borders “hired bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers while continuing in talks to secure a $500 million credit line.”

While I like the idea of them getting a credit line to get back on their feet, I’m a little worried about who will actually be willing or able to extend them that kind of credit.  More importantly, have they polished up their business model enough to qualify?

Signs telling of sales and discounts on books

We all like to see these great signs of sales and discounts to be had but not because the business is ready to collapse.  Yes, there has been talk of bankruptcy. The same friends that alerted me to the problem-plagued condition of the store spoke of customer service problems.  I know this is true because I have run into this myself.

In early 2007, although I thought it was longer ago than that, Borders severed its ties with Amazon.  At the time, analysts thought Amazon would lose a lot of money.  Some consumers saw it going the other way.  The consumers were right.  Amazon is as strong as ever, maybe stronger.  Borders was and still is in trouble.

In a completely unrelated conversation with Amazon’s Kindle-support staff on Tuesday morning, while responding positively to a “How Did We Do” survey Amazon sent me via email, I asked them to light a candle for Borders.  Seriously!  I did!  I told them that Borders is not as much their competition as they are their helper.

I know, you think I’m nuts but think about it — Borders helps us to be able to smell, touch, and feel those books we are going to download on to our Kindles, or whatever eReader floats your boat.  I don’t think Borders would really appreciate that comment but it’s true.

Mall entrance to Borders at Pearlridge Shopping Center

There are still books not available for Kindle download and there are still bibliophiles, self included, who are not willing to give up the ability to walk through those wonderful glass doors and enter that colorful room filled with the scent of new books!  See, the need and desire for a good bookstore is still there.

Bargain books at Borders, Pearlridge

We need to have access to a place where we can hang out in comfort, a place with good books to experience, and a place equipped with quality staff  that knows what it is they are selling!  This is not a 7-11 Store — the staff at Borders needs to have just a little more expertise and they need to have a more cater-to-the-customer mentality.

Perhaps the affiliation with Amazon is one that Borders could, and maybe should, examine once again.  Arrogance and professional jealousy on both sides will probably not let that happen.  I think it would be a good idea but experts like Mary Gotaas at IBISWorld think this was one of their mistakes.

I disagree that their connection with Amazon was a bad thing but I do agree that their development of a signature eReader was way, way too slow in coming!  Can they catch up with the Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook?  Unless they can come up with some fantastic new development I think they will remain well behind in that arena.eReaders one sale at Borders

Of course they could figure out a way to sell books that are compatible with both of those lead eReaders and sell those on Borders.com, with competitive pricing!  That would be great for consumers, if Borders has not already alienated publishers so much that those publishers would never entertain any such newfangled notion.

They should, they could, perhaps they might, it would be a good idea if — I can go on all day.  In short, I’m hoping that Borders will be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat, or something, and get their book-seller feet back on the ground!  Come on you guys, you’re making me really nervous!

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18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 gigi-hawaii // Jan 22, 2011 at 5:26 am

    I used to shop at Borders all the time, taking advantage of their discount coupons. Then I switched to Amazon, because it was easier and cheaper. Often Borders did not have the latest edition of a Scrabble dictionary, for instance, whereas Amazon did.

    I ordered a Kindle and will receive it around Jan 25.

    My 3 memoirs are sold at Borders. Check them out!

  • 2 Evelyn // Jan 22, 2011 at 6:06 am

    Hi Gigi! I like to do almost all of my Christmas shopping by mail — it’s easier and someone else (the mailman) has to carry them to my house! It’s easier and usually cheaper. But, most people don’t want to see the malls to go away! It would be devastating to me to see my darling Borders close its doors. Sigh.

  • 3 B. // Feb 9, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I too lament the demise of physical bookstores, while contributing to it by buying from Amazon.

    Before I retired, I used to have this routine. Every Sunday I would take the coupon Border’s had sent me that week, go there, buy a book, and sit and read for a couple of hours while my spouse did other things. (Post-retirement I don’t spend quite so freely!)

    The irony, though, is this: the megastores like Borders drove out many if not most independent bookstores. Now if the megastores start to fold, what will be left?

    On O`ahu this seems especially problematical. We don’t even have too much in the way of second-hand bookstores (the one in Kailua is the bright and notable exception).

    It’s a sad time for an aging bibliophile.

  • 4 Evelyn // Feb 9, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Hey B.! We are, I’m afraid, partly to blame. There are many businesses that can say the same, I suppose. I wonder if the independents will come back if the megastores fold up. But, you’re right — the digital book readers may seal the fate of all hard-cover bookstores. Sigh. Sometimes progress takes away some of the things we would rather not lose!

  • 5 Maria // Feb 19, 2011 at 12:49 am

    I am just heartsick at the thought of Borders
    closing. I am disabled and for 13 years I have
    been a history buff. and going to that wonderful wonderland of books, and having
    a hot cuppa tea was and is pure Heaven to me.
    No e-book. will ever take its’ place. Been to
    Barnes and Nobles. and it just doesn’t feel
    the same to me.. I sure hope people wake
    up to what’s happening in our society when
    technology replaces the actual experience
    of browsing to pick out the next perfect
    book, which is like a companion to many.
    The look, the feel, the smell of a new book
    are just ambrosia to me..

  • 6 Evelyn // Feb 19, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Such wonderful words, Maria! God willing, we will not lose all of our locations. They’re talking about closing a few store but, hopefully, our favorites will remain open.

  • 7 B. // Feb 19, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Inspired by your post and the discussion, I’m planning a story about Waikiki bookstores for Feb 27 on my Waikiki Wanderer blog. Given the sad situation Waikiki book lovers face (one small store) it may be a really short piece …

    I guess the prevailing view is that tourists don’t come here to read. Once upon a time I was in the book/gift shop at Bishop Museum, which as you know has excellent Hawaiian material hard to find elsewhere. I bought a bunch of books (that was in the pre-retirement days) and the sales clerk said, “You’re on vacation, what do you need all these books for?” (I guess she assumed I was a tourist for some reason, but more to the point, is this the person to work in a book store?)

  • 8 Evelyn // Feb 19, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    That’s really part of the problem, B., seriously! Part of my customer loyalty stems from the treatment and assistance I get from staff — no matter what business it is! Borders, for one, does need to get the quality of staff they used to have. Ahhh, what a little bit of book knowledge and a lot of patience will bring you!

    By the way, I would love to have you join us for the next blog Carnival! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  • 9 Musings // Mar 8, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I loved Borders too, but I have to confess I’ve gotten a Kindle and am becoming hooked on it. I would be a shame if they went completely under.

  • 10 Evelyn // Mar 8, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    I know, Musings, I’m Kindle nuts too! But, I still love my Borders and I don’t want us to lose them! 🙁

  • 11 Double Brush // Mar 23, 2011 at 1:58 am

    I was super bummed that the Hilo Borders store closed a few months ago. It is being replaced by a Walgreens:(

    There is no other bookstore with coffee shop to replace it. I feel a big void in my life still.

  • 12 Evelyn // Mar 23, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    HVG! Long time no see! So nice to see that Double Brush name again! I am so sorry about the Hilo store! Apparently there’s another one on Oahu about to close too. Sigh.

  • 13 B. // Mar 26, 2011 at 11:20 am

    And now we hear Borders at Waikele is to close at, I believe, the end of May, turning that already boring shopping area into a complete wasteland.

  • 14 Evelyn // Mar 27, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Sigh. This is getting scary.

  • 15 Karen of Honolulu // Mar 30, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    I agree with what B said. Borders worked very hard to put small book stores out of business.

    I loved going into the local bookstore and knowing the staff and they also knowing me and my book choices. I never did like Borders in that they were so big that looking for books became a real chore.

    If you were lucky enough to find staff to help, it meant that I would watch them look through piles of non fiction trying to find the title for me.

    I read a few years back that the small book stores that are able to survive were expecting that just what happened to Borders was inevitable. Once it happened the independents would be able to pick up where Borders left off.

    Unfortunately, there never were a whole lot of small book stores on the islands so I’m not sure just how many have survived. I tried to support one in Kailua but the drive over from Kunia got to be too much once gas prices started to rise. I guess it will be Amazon for me now that Waikele has closed. Oh well I saw it coming.

    Oh, I forgot who wrote who had the bad experience (Gigi?) at Bishop Museum. Next time you go into that book shop on Sunday -Thursday, there is a young man who works there by the name of Pomai. He is your go to guy to give you wonderful, insightful information on any really good Hawaiian book. He is a wealth of information on Hawaii.

  • 16 Evelyn // Mar 31, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Thanks, Karen, for sharing the interesting and useful information! 🙂

  • 17 B. // Apr 9, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Just left Borders in Waikele. It’s the saddest thing a book-lover could ever see. Garish and decidedly ugly “Everything Must Go!” signs hang everywhere. It’s 20-50% off on whatever’s left, and it’s all going fast. At the checkout we’re reminded, “All Sales are Final,” and to demonstrate this, each book is defaced with black permanent marker lining out the bar code on the back cover. You can get a Borders e-book reader really cheap, but who trusts them to be around to supply content?

    I’m not going back there again. I just can’t take i.t Even though Borders made major errors with their business model, we who shop Amazon and Bookfinder certainly share some of the blame. But there has to be a better way than this.

  • 18 Evelyn // Apr 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Hi B., I’m sorry. I’m happy for the bargains but I can see where this would be a heart-breaker.

    Borders in Mililani Town Center has a big sale today too – buy 4 get one free. I don’t think they are scheduled to close but the outrageous deals, aside from making me salivate, make me veeerrry nervous!

    I don’t think I could’ve stood seeing the books defaced like that. Sigh.

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