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The Demise of Borders

The liquidation of the remaining 399 stores in the Borders bookstore chain.

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What goes around comes around I guess.

  • Jul 19, 2011
When the big-box book retailers Barnes & Nobles and Borders first appeared on the scene 25 or 30 years ago hundreds of beloved local booksellers around the country were forced out of business. It was painful for many of us to watch as one by one well-established, locally owned family businesses succumbed to the onslaught of the big guys.....just like in "You've Got Mail". Here in Rhode Island "College Hill Bookstore" near Brown University had been around forever but the lost volume proved to be too much to overcome. The store closed in the late1990's. Meanwhile, Borders had opened up a store just a few miles from my home a couple of years earlier. With few other available choices I became a regular. I was devastated today to learn that all of the remaining 399 Borders locations will close in the coming weeks. Indeed, it seems that "the worm has turned".

I supposed it was inevitable. With the emergence of Amazon.com, e-book readers like Kindle, Icarus and Nook and the ability for individuals to download music from the internet it had become increasingly difficult to turn a profit in a traditional brick and mortar outlet. Borders sure tried to figure it out. Every few months they would reconfigure the store and change the product mix. A few years ago they introduced the Borders Rewards card. Several times a week I would receive e-mails offering 20-30-40 and even 50% off my purchase. Then about a year ago they added Borders Rewards Plus whereby for a one-time $20.00 annual fee you would earn an extra 10% off every purchase. The bottom line was that in desperation they were giving the stuff away. And as any first-year economics major will tell you this is a recipe for failure.  Now the jig is up and by the end of September Borders will be nothing more than a memory.  I will miss them because this was one of a handful of places I enjoyed shopping in.

In the short run Barnes & Noble stands to be the big winner with the demise of their arch-rival Borders.  But I suspect that the reprieve will be a short one.  Barnes & Noble still faces all of those obstacles that ultimately did in Borders.  They too will have to figure it all out.  But in the meantime here's hoping that the remaining independently-owned booksellers will get a boost from all of this.  They sure could use it.  So farewell Borders.  Thanks for many an enjoyable evening.   
What goes around comes around I guess. What goes around comes around I guess. What goes around comes around I guess. What goes around comes around I guess.

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September 04, 2011
Interesting insights. I was so sad to hear you were losing your job some months back. I for one am not exactly thrilled with all of this digital stuff., I have been collecting music for more than 45 years and suddenly it's just not fun anymore. Digital may be cheaper and more efficient but there is definitely something missing here.
September 04, 2011
Little story that me and a few other Borders employees learned.  There are a couple of reasons Borders went under.  The biggest one being the eReader thing that began but mostly because Borders didn't exactly jump in on it fast enough.  And while some may think the Borders Rewards card was part of an undoing... if they'd had it sooner it might've done well for us.  Barnes and Noble offers up a very similar package with their rewards program and it helped them attract more customers because you were getting rewarded for it... points you could eventually use to get pretty much a free book.

But a big thing about Borders going under that we all learned was that the situation with the emerging ebook just wasn't handled well.  Borders thought what just about everyone thought:  "It's just a fad that'll pass."  Unfortunately competing with ebooks AND Amazon wasn't a good idea.  Borders just couldn't figure out a way to match prices.  And then when they FINALLY got some eReader support it was pretty much already over.  Why go with theirs when Amazon's Kindle was superior and Barnes and Noble had one in COLOR!  So they hopped on the bandwagon too late for that one because they were too busy dismissing it.  Fad or not, the eReader certainly has a much bigger impact on the market than a lot of people think.  Who wants to spend 20 bucks on a hardcover bestseller when you can download it on your eReader for a measly ten bucks or so?  Fourteen at the most.  That's still cheaper than even the Trade Paperback price.  You're just getting a better deal all around. 

I spent a bit of time working for Borders in Aurora, Colorado.  When THAT store closed (recently, in fact, it was in April) they transferred me to Lonetree, Colorado.  Some store in a resort Mall (Park Meadows) and then they announced a couple of months afterwards that they just couldn't compete and they were going under.  Since I wasn't up for another closing sale I quit.  No store to be transferred to or anything like that.

Barnes and Noble on the other hand WAS in the same boat for some time.  They're not anymore.  They were recently acquired by a bigger company and they actually turned a profit last year.  IN part their Nook just happens to be doing great.  But their online sector is also doing fairly well.  But I've also heard they want to phase out their stores and pretty much become an online only retailer.  Which is sad.  I recently got a call from them asking if I'd come and work for them.

It's kind of sad.  I enjoy reading... but for some reason can't stomach the eReader.  I mean that literally, they give me absurd headaches for some reason and my eyes begin to hurt after a while (but that's not the eReaders fault I think anyone's eyes would go weary staring at a particular screen for too long). 
July 27, 2011
Great post, Paul. This is really sad. And just as I was getting into books again! My latest book purchase was actually a huge one through their website, which was a great experience, so I hope that even if their stand alone stores are no longer around, that they'll continue operating through their site.
July 28, 2011
I have mixed feelings about all of this. I only have a preference to Border's because a friend bought me membership on it, giving me extra discounts and free 2 day shipping, but I'll check out B&N. Of course I love small, local bookstores, too. Sadly, there aren't too many around these days and they don't have as wide a selection as these bigger stores do.
July 22, 2011
I agree with you on your thoughts regarding B&N. I'm very sad to see Borders going out of business. It was always my favorite in person bookstore to shop at.
July 20, 2011
New products like Kindle are competing with bookstores everywhere. The technology will become more competitive and cheaper electronic books will attract more market share. It remains to be seen whether or not newsprint will cave into the pressure of high technology, although customers have wanted a physical newspaper for decades now. Ultimately, the ads in newspapers may keep them alive a while longer.
More The Demise of Borders reviews
Quick Tip by . July 22, 2011
Even though I no longer have a Borders close-by since my move to a small beach town in Delaware in 2008, I still am very saddened by the news of Borders' demise.  When I lived in Alexandria, VA (DC area), I had a huge Borders near my work and a smaller Waldenbooks (which was owned by Borders) near my home, and the same card could be used for both, which was very convenient.      Since I moved to a smaller town with very few of the major box stores, I buy my books (and …
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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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By The Associated Press — After 40 years of selling books, it looks like Borders is preparing for its final chapter. The chain on Thursday is expected to seek court approval to be sold to liquidators. If the judge approves the move, liquidation sales and store closings could start as soon as Friday.


Borders filed for bankruptcy protection in February after being hurt by competition from online booksellers and discounters. The chain had hoped to successfully emerge from bankruptcy protection by the fall as a smaller company. But pressure from creditors and lenders eventually led the company to put itself up for sale.

Borders' attempt to stay alive unraveled last week after a $215 million bid by a private-equity firm dissolved under objections from creditors and lenders. They argued the chain would be worth more if it liquidated immediately.

Now the chain's remaining 399 stores could be shuttered by September. Borders currently has 10,700 employees.

Those who have Borders' e-reader, the Kobo, will still be able use Kobo software to buy and read books. Kobo officials say users of Borders e-book accounts, which began transitioning to Kobo in June, will be able to access their e-books uninterrupted.


Tom and Louis Borders opened their first Borders store in 1971, selling used books in Ann Arbor. In 1973, the store moved to a larger location and shifted its focus to selling new books and expanding, helping pioneer the big-box ...

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