Not sure how I feel about the passing of Borders

Opinion: Columns

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By Dave Coulter

Rough Edges

I generally take a market approach to business news. If some big business failed I would usually chalk it up to a series of logical reasons and move on. I didn't shed a tear when Marshall Field's became Macy's, or when Blockbuster stores started to get shuttered. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about the news that Borders will be closing. Books are near and dear to my heart, and there once was a time when Borders was the cool bookstore.

It was, but that was a couple decades ago, and it got me thinking about what makes a good bookstore. I think the better bookstores do not become chains, or if they do, they're small ones. Examples might include 57th Street/Seminary Co-op Books, the old Barbara's or Powell's (way out in Portland, Ore.). To me these examples represent a time when one went to a bookstore to see what they were selling — what they thought was worth reading. That was the appeal: The bookseller knew his audience and tried to cater to it.

Once the Amazons of the world appeared, it seems to me these wonderful bookstores felt they had to compete with both selection and price. To me they never needed to. Amazon.com never once got Studs Terkel to do a reading, but Barbara's sure as hell did. The edge the smaller stores had was their worldview, on display and for sale on their racks.

It's a bit like a good restaurant isn't it? Cook up something as a good as you can, and put it out there on the table. But by God, the menu better only be two pages long. Please, don't try and be all things for all people. Food or books.

Maybe it's just irony, but it looks like one of the last purchases I will ever make at a Borders was the new edition of "Colors." The theme of this issue is "transportation." More to the point, it discusses how on Earth will we get around once the oil is gone. People will have to simplify, go back to bikes, walk, horses and buggies. There's a lesson in there somewhere, I'm sure. Turn the page.

Reader Comments

4 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Jg Morales  

Posted: July 28th, 2011 10:24 AM

I never did much shopping for myself at Borders, but my boys loved it. So, it will be missed. I also agree with Julie. I hated to see Barbara's go, and when looking for something particular it was great to be able to check all three stores. As for the sale, the deeper discounts typically don't happen till later on when it comes to going out of business sales.

Julie Nilson Chyna from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 28th, 2011 8:47 AM

I will miss the bookbuying "center" created by Borders, The Book Table, and at one time, Barbara's. If I was shopping for books, I'd go to that block and hit one of the indies first, knowing that if I couldn't find what I wanted there, I could always go to Borders. I'll also miss the enormous magazine section--now there's no other place nearby where you can find such a wide selection of publications. I can go anywhere for Rolling Stone or Shape, but only Borders had Writer's Digest and Glimmer Train.

epic lulz  

Posted: July 27th, 2011 8:24 PM

I share your impression, Brent. This is not yet a liquidation sale. If the liquidators were banking on moving inventory at those prices, they overpaid. And if they don't earn as much as the second place offer in front of the bankrupcy court, which would have kept Borders intact, I'll be really pissed.

Brent Borgerson from Oak Park  

Posted: July 27th, 2011 8:15 PM

We went in Sunday to check out the "reductions" for "going out of business sale". Prices seemed as high and higher as before? Maybe there were discounts on undesirable items ( my opinion) but I really didn't see any. Maybe they had month old magazines?

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