Monday, January 31, 2011

Why I am not crying over Borders closing.

Why should I be upset? I live in a town with a lot of options for bookstores.

The local Borders is in its last throws of life. I found out it was closing via a friend that goes to the mall (where else would the store be) more than I do. Then Friday coming home, as the bus pulled into the mall stop I saw the signs up: "All fixtures must go!" And I am not upset.

You should be! That is a major chain! They gave us books at great prices! The cafe is wonderful! It's a sign that more people should be reading!

Um, sorry, I'm not. You see in Syracuse, NY, we have local bookstores that will gladly take the shoppers in. And some of these stores are a lot more fun to shop in than a mega chain.

Let's start on James Street. You have two to choose from and they are almost across the street from one another.

One is Books End This is the place were we missed out on a great find. We found a copy of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, first edition, signed by Gary Gygax, and we decide to come back for it. It was gone. Never again! What I like about Books End is the amazing finds. I can spend hours on the floor next to the cookbook section. I have found Polish cookbooks that were written in Polish and English. I have found old fantasy titles long out of print. If you want the rare stuff, this is the place to go.

Just a little ways down the street is Books & Memories. You can never browse properly in a big chain store. Have any of you wandered down one aisle and realized you just spent an hour looking at titles. That is this book store. Sometimes its a mess. The first visit for me, I went into the basement and they were rearrange a section, it felt like a garage sale, but a fun one. I loved the stacks of books. When I brought my husband back, the stacks were gone, but you still had the feeling on going on a treasure hunt. If you want to lose hours, this is the place.

For you comic book lovers, so many choices! But back to the mall for the one that I always go back to; Play the Game Read the Story. They have a great selection of comic books, but the reason I like to go there, is the support they give back to their customers. Now that they are settled in the bottom of the mall, they have expanded their playing area. But its not just for playing RPGs or Magic the Gathering; NaNoWriMo met there last year, a group of people designing a comic book met there, they are willing to share the space with any creative people that need a workplace.

And more, some I have not had time to shop at: Seven Rays Bookstore:  I love their new location on Armory Square. One of my titles is there! Lavender Inkwell; on McBride Street. A Gay and Lesbian themed book store. Second Story Bookstore on Westcott. People rave about the coffee shop.

And there are so many more, that are not connected to large chains.

All this makes me happy, why? One of the things I support is Shop Local. Which is a bit ironic for me, since I work for a nation wide chain. I love to be able to walk into a store and know that this place is unique, you aren't going to find another store like it anywhere. Even my favorite local coffee shop, Freedom of Espresso, they have multiple locations, but each location is different. Local stores bring more money back to the community. And its nice to know that you can develop a relationship with the owners, just by visiting. So at least in my city. Losing one national bookstore is not something to cry about.

I do feel sorry for those people who live in towns were the big chain bookstores forced the little ones to close. Now that the future of Borders isn't too bright, many people will find themselves without a place to buy books, that isn't a department store.

I know ebooks are HUGE, but there is something really nice about going into a store and losing yourself in the aisles. Maybe its time to revisit my vision of what bookstores should be like now. LINK


  1. Hi,
    Sorry to be a dissenting voice, but the ONLY book store of any variety near me was a Borders, all that's left is a rather poor collection of brand newbooks in the local WHSmith. While I agree with your point that more support should be given to these small local stores, the few that were around near me have died out, with the death of borders, I have to travel an uncomfortable distance to get to anything, we now have nothing of any worth near by.

    Borders wasn't the reason for the local stores to close, they were already dying prior to us getting a borders, borders was just the final nail.


  2. I'm not feeling any sympathy for Borders either. They were the first chain to undermine independent book stores. Good riddance. It's unfortunate that many places in the country only have one chain bookstore. I'll bet that wasn't the case 20 years ago before the chain stores came along. Now if Walmart could only implode.

  3. Here's why you should be crying (and this is coming from someone who works in an independent)

    As Marc pointed out, some people ONLY have Borders as an option.

    Ebooks still account for 10% of the market. That means 90% of book sales still come from Amazon, indies, B&N, Borders, etc. Borders is the #3 supplier of that 90%.

    We need more than 1 chain. Let's say buyers at Borders like author X and decide to carry that title, but B&N passes on author X's book. Guess what happens if there's no Borders and B&N passes on a title? It doesn't stay in print very long, and the author might not ever get published again.

    With fewer retail outlets to purchase books, publishers will cut publicity budgets making it even hard for readers to meet their favorite authors. The issue is A LOT more complex than, "eh, I'll go buy books somewhere else."

    Losing Borders will effect publishers, authors, readers, and even independent book stores if publishing houses start printing fewer titles, or less variety.

  4. I agree that the large retail chains are needed to a point, but now its down to Barnes and Noble and Walmart and Target for books. People who really love their books will have to find an outlet.
    Amazon is a good guess where a lot of them will go. But the point of this post was to show that there are options out there. Some people I know have lost both major chains in their towns, their only option is Walmart or online.
    Lets hope more independents take up the slack and bring people back to their stores.

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  6. So basically what you're saying is that people better get used to reading a lot of James Patterson, Jodi Picoult, and Nicholas Sparks. Because if we're looking to Wal-Mart and Target for books that is what we're going to be getting.

    While people will find an outlet, they'll be finding that the selection at that outlet will be slim. The loss of any bookstore is something to cry about. Surely someone who has hopes of being a full time writer would understand that.

  7. The large book chains don't carry the variety either. When I can't find a Terry Pratchett (not that unknown of an author) at A Barnes and Noble, you start to realize that even though they have a lot of books, they are only stocking the popular ones.

    Give me the independent stores. And I am biased because I have such a selection of non chain stores to choose from. Also, I do work at one of the department stores. I check in the books and send them back. So I do know how weak their selection is. That is another reason I don't like the big chains. Too much pandering to the common denominator.

  8. I've worked at 3 different Borders stores over the past 7 years, and every one of them carried Terry Pratchett. No store is ever going to have the perfect selection, but that's no reason to be so non-chalant about them going away.

    I'm sure the 35,000 local employees that Borders has will cry when they're gone. The communities where that chain pays rent, pays taxes, and contributes other money to the community will cry. While it may not be as much money as an indie contributes, it's still money going back to that community. Not to mention the authors that are losing a chunk of their livelihood.

    There's a big difference between a chain bookstore and a department store that carries books. Do you think Borders going away will make easier for people to find books they want? Each Borders I worked at had a different selection based on what the customers in that area purchased.

    You are biased because you have so many choices. The great indies are closing all the time too. The Mystery Bookstore in LA is closing its doors forever tomorrow.

    To say you won't cry if Borders closes because you don't like chains, or because you can shop somewhere else is simplistic and shows a complete lack of knowledge about how the book industry really works. I've worked at 3 Borders, and 2 indies. I'm at an indie now, and I love it. It's everything I've ever wanted working in a bookstore to be. I hated what Borders has become but I don't want it to go away.

    I want to know that people still have a place to go buy books. Even if it is a chain store.

  9. I was at a meeting last night and some people were saying it was Barnes closing or that Borders bought Barnes or vice versa. I thought of you and your blog.