Borders Files for Bankruptcy

Early this morning news broke that Borders was finally filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy after unsuccessfully trying to reorganize and cut jobs to make the company viable. Their demise was avidly tracked and updated frequently over the past few months on twitter by publishing pundits, bloggers and booksellers.

While I do believe that many current business models for booksellers must be reformatted for changing times, Borders’ downfall has had a surprisingly emotional effect on me and many other bibliophiles (check #myfirstborders for memories on twitter). For many of us, it seems, Borders was one of the first places where we really discovered and enjoyed books. Before Borders came to Akron, Ohio in the early 1990s, the only place I could look at and get books was from unappealing and cramped Waldenbooks stores in the mall. Having been an avid reader even as a young kid, it was really disappointing to have to browse there; the selection was limited and the shelves were so high and narrow that I could barely squeeze by other patrons to find books. When the Borders was opened, it was a like a whole new world. Every other Friday, my parents would drive up to Akron as a treat and I would get lost in the spacious bookshelves, where books were neatly organized and I could pick up staff recommendations to discover new authors. And after cramming my arms full of books and magazines, I could stumble over to the café and flip through everything at my leisure with a big hot chocolate and a cookie with my mom and dad. Of course now, this kind of bookstore set up is almost de rigueur in all the big box bookstores, but at the time it felt really unique and special. And while I always try to support local and independent bookstores, the sad truth is that not everyone had or has access to them. I certainly didn’t as a kid. But I had Borders and it still holds a really magical and nostalgic place in my childhood which is why I really do want them to succeed, somehow. Hopefully bankruptcy will force them to adopt a strategy that is more in line with the current market and they will be able to re-discover who their customers are and draw them back in with better marketing and programs.

Borders also released a list of under-performing stores that are being closed in the coming months and Columbus’s 2 stores are slated to close. However, my childhood store will stay up and running for the time being, which secretly makes me very happy (though admittedly, it is not the Borders I remember from my childhood :/)

You can check this website that Borders created concerning the bankruptcy for more updates and details on how it will impact customers and employees.

What are your thoughts about Borders closing? Do you have any special Borders memories?

7 Responses so far.

  1. Jon K says:

    I'm really glad my Borders is safe for the time being but I feel bad for a lot of other people. As far as big-box brick and mortars go, Borders was the only one that managed to draw me in regularly with really good deals and their kick-ass rewards system.

  2. To be completely honest, I'd never been in a Borders until about 2 years ago (and it was still my one and only time.) With both locations on the opposite side of town from where I've lived my whole life, we never made the trip. We were much more of a library family anyway. But the news of Borders closing still makes me sad, even as a current bookseller for the competition. I know from working in my store, we have so many regulars--so many people who come in practically every day because they feel a connection to the books, the atmosphere, or the staff. And I know the same can be said about Borders, which I think is what makes me the saddest about the situation. Those long-time customers who are losing their home away from home. The place where the staff knows you'll be coming in for a newspaper on your lunch break, so they set one aside for you in the morning. The bookseller that knows exactly what you like to read, and hands you the perfect new release the next time you come in. Or maybe they're just losing the quiet place to enjoy a cup of coffee while they're studying. And I feel for the booksellers as well. I've been through the store closing thing before, and it's heartbreaking to watch all your memories of the job you love get liquidated and carted off. So while I may be a part of the competition, and may not have ever been a Borders shopper, I still feel for all of those involved. It totally sucks all around.

  3. bianca says:

    I've lived in a walkable section of a city for 7 years, and have become quite spoiled with the local bookstore/cafe culture that thrives in the blocks around me.

    Borders left quite an early impression on me because, before I had such availability, suburban sprawl very much defined my access to both bookstores and cafes. I was in high school the first time I ever visited a Borders store, and, though a corporate chain, the store/cafe instantly felt like home. Everything that felt really important to me, ages 14-18, lived in that single store. There was music retail, but it wasn't 'the mall'. And there were books of all kinds, but the cafe I read them in provided an 'escape' from an academic setting.

    I know that a need in our culture is driving technology to make big changes in our personal experiences (re: newspapers on ipads, magazine titles as tweets, ordering book files online for on e-readers) but I would sincerely hate to see folks that are already stranded by highway sprawl (who clearly cannot walk across the street to a neighborhood bookstore), starve and kill the essential social environment that Borders has been providing.

  4. Jon -

    You're actually the one that really got me going back into Borders. I feel like they should have a done a better job advertising their Borders Rewards program in a non-invasive way. Up until you really told me about it, I just assumed that it was something you had to pay for that offered little benefits (I remember always always cutting off the cashier when he/she would try to ask if I was a borders rewards member). The rewards program actually gives me an incentive to go back in a big box store. I really they the bricks and morter box book stores still have a place in the current business environment but I think they have to offer something unique. I go to local independant stores when I want a well curated book selection and knowledgable staff, I go to Amazon when I want the lowest cost, but why do I want to go to a big box store? I think ultimately Borders (AND Barnes & Noble) forgot what they were in the business of and tried to diversify too much. I can't tell you how weird it is to Borders and Barnes & Noble sell toys, candy, stuffed animals, keychains, and other random stuff all over the store. You're a book store and a cafe, keep to what you know.

  5. Danae -

    such a great great comment, I think you really hit the hammer on the nail with the emotional attachment people get to their bookstore, be it an independant locally owned place or a big box store. For me, it's like losing a childhood friend. Even though Borders today is not really the Borders I remember, it still holds a special place in my heart. I think a lot of people form an attachment to their bookstore (or library!) that doesn't have the same emotioanl impact as say, Target or a grocery store. Like you said, it can represent many things - friendship and comraderie with staff, a place to get coffee and relax, somewhere you can get lost by yourself for a few hours... While I'm always cheering for and supporting the small indie bookseller, the truth is I don't want to see ANY bookstore fail.

    Regarding the two Columbus Borders closing, I totally agree - they were too inconveniantly located. I can also count on one hand the number of times I went to a Borders in Columbus because of it. Borders really needed a central Columbus location or a store at Easton or Polaris to get any kind of foot traffic.

  6. Bianca -

    Your comment is perfect, that's exactly how I felt as a teen. Borders was like a culteral mecca to me, and represented a shared family experience. Like you said, now that I live in a bigger city, I have access to all kinds of independent bookstores that I adore, but there are still people who live in areas where a Borders or Barnes & Noble is their only access to a wide variety of books. Bookstores and print media will of course have to change to be continue to survive and be successful (even though I'm totally old school and will never 100% be on the digital bandwagon), but the death of ANY bookstore makes me really sad.

  7. Borders had terrible business practices--like frequently delaying payment to small presses for their books, payment they desperately needed, because they were too big to argue with. They have a lot of small business enemies, and are going to bring down other small businesses around their enormous now-empty stores because of their poor financial decisions. So in that sense, I'm grimly celebrating their demise. But it was good to read your post and remember growing up in the midwest, eagerly taking advantage of my driver's license to spend the afternoon at a big box store. On the other hand, if these bookstores disappear, who knows what creative entrepreneur will be emboldened to bring books back to their town.

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