I was saddened to hear Borders is closing all of its stores and laying off its 11,000 employees. I just went to my local Borders, the closest bookstore to my home since indie bookstore Coffee Buy the Book closed several years ago, to buy a copy of [amazon_link id=”0439136369″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban[/amazon_link], which Maggie and I are reading together right now. We have had to replace worn Harry Potter titles a few times around our house. Aside from that visit, I can’t remember for sure the last time I made a trip to Borders. I used to go all the time. In fact, some 15 years ago, it was my favorite bookstore, and I used to drive all the way from Winder, where I lived, to a Borders in Gwinnett County near the mall. They had the best selection of any bookstore around, and the addition of music made it worth the trip.
Borders blames their troubles on the market and e-books, and they probably have a point, but they should also blame online purchases of music and movies. While books were their primary product, they also sold DVD’s and CD’s. The market for CD’s has all but vanished. I can’t remember the last CD I bought. I still buy DVD’s because movies take up a lot of real estate on my computer. Surely the dwindling music and DVD sales hurt Borders, too.
Borders closings mean that Barnes and Noble will be the last large chain remaining. I suppose Books-a-Million is still in business, but only in the East and South for the most part, and I have never been fond of them. Of the BAM stores I’ve visited, all have been somewhat untidy and had poor variety of selections. I have to wonder what Barnes and Noble is doing right that is keeping them afloat that Borders failed to do. One possible explanation is that the Nook e-reader seems to have caught on, whereas the Kobo reader didn’t become as popular. Aside from that one (admittedly major) difference, I can’t decide what sets Barnes and Noble apart from Borders: both even have attached coffee houses most of the time. I like the atmosphere in Barnes and Noble a little better I think, but I couldn’t pinpoint why.
Because friends know I have a Kindle and that I keep up with technology, many have asked me about e-readers, and I have always advised them to look at a Kindle or a Nook rather than a Kobo reader. I think that Kobo readers can handle books bought from a variety of places, but Borders’ shaky ground prompted me to feel leery of Kobo’s sustainability. Does anyone know what Borders closings will mean for Kobo readers?
It’s too bad Borders is closing, but I’m glad I didn’t renew my Rewards card now. The writing has really been on the wall for some time. Unfortunately. I truly hope its employees land on their feet and find other work that they love. Somewhat ironic consequence of the closing: I almost have to use online bookstores like Amazon now because all the other local bookstores are too far away for me to visit regularly, just on a whim. We have absolutely no independent bookstores nearby.
Update, July 19: Macworld has a story about what will happen to Kobo reader owners.
Update, July 21: Slate has some additional thoughts about Borders’ closing, all of which make sense to me.