Thursday, February 17, 2011

Borders Closing and What it Means to Me

I've thought for a while about what to say in regards to Borders' bankruptcy filing.  There seems to be a pall of doom hanging over Twitter in regards to this but I have to say that I don't think this is all bad.

Yes, it sucks that a lot of employees will lose their jobs.  There's no way to spin that into a good thing.  But this is happening all over.  Friends have lost jobs, the economy is in the tank, even my own job is uncertain.

Let me back up.  My fondest book experiences come from wandering small Waldenbooks stores in my youth.  They weren't the megastores that we have today but they were big enough to have a little bit of everything.  The people who worked there genuinely loved books and were always eager to push their favorites.  Indie bookstores are even better.

See, in this age of digitalization, the best part of bookstores isn't how many there are or how big they are, it's the people who work in them.  I don't have time to read about every new book coming out.  I depend on recommendations from friends and booksellers and librarians.  I have a core group of people who can get me to read anything.

In my opinion, the reorganization of Borders gives it the opportunity to regroup.  To find what it does best and then focus on that.  In the age of e-books, we simply don't need sprawling stores that take up more space than an Ikea.  What we need are smaller stores, stocked with knowledgable people.

Imagine this:  Small stores, like boutique stores, that specialize in certain books.  Similar to Books of Wonder in NY, which specializes in children's literature.  More money is spent on well trained, knowledgable employees because carrying stock isn't a requirement.  Sure, they'll carry the hottest, best selling titles, or titles that the bookseller feels passionate about, but they won't need to stock them all.  Because there will be a couple of computer stations throughout the store where customers can purchase any book not stocked through an affiliate program.  This includes physical books AND e-books.  Programs like Google's e-bookstore allow booksellers to sell e-books.  That way you can go to your favorite indie bookstore and buy the books you want for your Nook or Kobo or whatever, while still making sure to support that store.  And since booksellers won't have to devote as much space or cash to stocking every single book ever written, they can stock their core sellers and still have access to the rest.  Leaving them more money to focus on having the best booksellers in the business.  Because when it comes to pushing a book, nothing beats a real live person who loves it.

Maybe I'm being optimistic, but I think the time of the book megastore is over, and I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing.  I'm psyched to see what the future brings.  I think that bookstores will need to become destinations.  It's so easy to sit at home and buy books from my couch, so bookstores will need to become places we want to go if they want to capture the sales.

I think that small stores with this type of concept can be profitable in a digital age.  And I think that if Borders is smart, they can emerge from this a stronger, better, more viable company.


  1. Here, here. I couldn't agree more.

  2. Totally agree. Bookstores can't out-Amazon Amazon. They need to emphasize their distinctives, instead.

  3. You are so right. Restructuring is so important with businesses that revolve around technology. Just ask Blockbuster what happene to them when Netflix came along.


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