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On Borders

Posted on 2011.02.19 at 13:39
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(Much of this content is a cross-post from Coppervale's blog and gives my response to his original post: 

James Owen, a friend and author of the amazing Imaginarum Geographica series of novels,had this to say about the Borders Books bankruptcy:

"So, Borders Bookstores have filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and are closing 30% of their stores.

This is sad for many, many reasons - and I remain hopeful that the book business in general - which remains strong, and steady, based on yearly sales, despite lots of rumors to the contrary - will weather this.

Borders has been a staple in my life as both a reader and as an author. And some - specifically the one in Mission Valley, near San Diego - have been rocks of support for my books. But this has been a long time coming, and the current position of Borders - and possibly forthcoming complete collapse - is not due to vagaries of the book market, or the rise of e-books, or anything the employees - most of whom are good, hardworking people who LOVE BOOKS - could have done. It's a failure of leadership. A failure of management. A failure of understanding the core business.

Hiring CEO's from other fields isn't a bad idea - it's a terrible one. And whatever other complaints you might make about the big rival Barnes & Noble, at least the people running the show are BOOK people."

My response:

I met James at the Borders Mission Valley store in San Diego, where I've been a bookseller and supervisor for nine years. From the first time I met him, I knew he was an extraordinary artist, and now I have the joy and honor of calling him a friend. There's never been a time since I read "Here There be Dragons," that I haven't featured his  "Imaginarium Geographica" books in section, on endcaps, and special displays in my store, because readers deserve to experience his world and words.

James, your observations about what happened at the top are spot on. You can't run a bookstore business like a grocery or clothing chain. It's a different animal, with a different business model, which survives because of the quality/knowledge of the booksellers, the co-op system, which involves a great deal of trust and traded risk, and a knowledge/near precognition of the book market. The biggest problems I see are massive over-expansion using leveraged debt in an attempt to catch up with B&N's number of stores, which happened just before the real estate bubble and economy ruptured, coupled with the disasterous decision to let Amazon run our online website for several years, instead of investing in making it a great site with real content.

Sadly, four of the seven stores in San Diego have been shuttered--thank God my store was spared the axe, at least in the short term--and across the country more than six thousand booksellers will lose their jobs, most with a great love for books and knowledge about them. No one works as a bookseller for the money, that's for sure. And now all those people will be looking for jobs, and will be hard pressed to find one where they are surrounded daily by the treasures they love--thousands of tomes celebrating the written word.

My store may be a brick-and-mortar, but those of us who work there have become a family, loving each other through good times and bad, with our own occasional shares of dysfunction, and quite a few marriages and families have been forged among my friends and coworkers. I hope and pray that we'll survive and emerge from these dark days. Borders' problems are hurting publishers and narrowing the gates for most writers. It's going to be harder now than ever for new and aspiring writers like me to get their dreams in print.


Steve Prosapio
no_bull_steve at 2011-03-18 08:24 (UTC) (Link)


The Borders closings are sad for all of us in the writing community. As a Card Carrying Member of the Borders Reward Club, losing the store in Leucadia was gut wrenching. I made shopping there at Christmas a tradition and purchased many a book there for myself.

Glad to hear you're still hanging on. I'll send you an email. Hope to hear back from you soon.
celimood at 2011-04-09 03:19 (UTC) (Link)
I’ve been into blogging for quite some time and this is definitely a great post.Cheers!

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