Borders Closing Won't Help Anyone

Borders Closing Won't Help Anyone by Jason, Russo's Books

January 25, 2010 

I can’t open my laptop and visit my normal bookish websites without hearing about the ever so near decimation of Borders.  The facts aren’t a secret: they have amassed serious debt, a few publishers have stopped shipping books to them, and they have had more restructuring than Heidi Montag’s face.  Now, me being an indie bookseller you might wonder why I’m about to write a blog AGAINST the closing of Borders.  That’s easy.  I’m a bookLOVER first and a book seller second.  Borders may be my competition in the retail world but in the literary world we’re (forgive me) sort of kindred spirits.  When I hear people talk about how wonderful it would be if Borders were to close, I want to scream until I wake Van Gogh.

Ask any teacher; the successful education of a student is directly impacted by how much or how LITTLE they read.  The same goes for a community.  Show me a community that could care less about reading and I’ll show you a community that is docile, weak, and uneducated.  Will Borders closing mean the end of society?  No.  But if it does close, it’ll be yet another place that sells books that our community will not have access to. 

Let’s also dispel a very common and inaccurate misconception: just because one company closes does not mean that people will flock to their competition.  IE: Borders impending doom does not mean that people will flock to Russo’s Books or Barnes & Noble.  I’m so over this so called customer loyalty.  Customer loyalty has gone the way of chivalry.  We'll all want to believe it, we’ve heard of it, and we love to wax nostalgia over it, but its gone man.  Gone.  Customers are loyal to their pocketbooks.  Game.  Set.  Match.  I know, I know there are your exceptions and I appreciate you.  But for the other 98%… spare me. 

The state of the book industry can probably be described as an overweight elephant trying to ice skate on frozen grease wearing dull skates.  We are trying to figure out the happy medium between print books, e-books, e-readers, and real h-readers.  Despite that, I truly believe that we (the book industry) would be able to weather this storm IF people would read more. 

But let me get back to my original post… Borders has partially created its own current beat-down by past bad business practices but even then; does that mean that people should throw a party because their doors might close?  No.  I hope Borders doesn’t close for a number of reasons.  The first of them being I DO NOT want Barnes & Noble and Amazon to hold a monopoly on retail book selling.  There is Books-A-Million but they are almost a non-issue when compared to Goliath and Goliath.  They are the third largest brick and mortar retail book store but that’s like saying Chelsea Handler is the smartest blonde out of Jenna Jameson and Jessica Simpson.  Publishers have proven they could give care less about independent bookstores, so watching those two corporate giants go at it to see who can sell a piece of intellectual property for less than $10 would be worse than watching ANY reality show on VH1.

Independent bookstore have used the mantra of “support your local bookstore” for decades.  It’s a nice Woodstock rallying cry but people don’t care.  I wonder if folks will even bat an eye if Borders does indeed close. Oh you’ll hear the same clichéd lines of “I loved them”, “I shopped there all the time”.  Don’t believe any of it.  If people shopped bookstore as often as they THOUGHT they did, this would be a nation of bookstores.  As it is, it’s become a nation of “how much does this cost?  WHAT!?!  $15!?!  I’m going to Amazon”.  You smile but I’m serious.  It turns my stomach when people shop the price of a book rather than the subject, genre, title, buzz, or author.

In the next few days a monster in the indie bookstore world, ‘Mystery Bookstore’, in Los Angeles will close.  You can read about it later but what’s REALLY sad is that there wasn’t another bookstore around them!  There is the UCLA bookstore but that doesn’t even come close.  No Borders, no Barnes & Noble, no Books-A-Million, and no other indie bookstore.  What does this tell you?  Despite their huge impact on the book community and their community in general they still had to close.  Wow.  The community figured they could get along just fine without them.  They are more stupid than Congress.  The community just gave up and said “thanks, but no thanks”.  (Again, customer loyalty my eye).  I’m sure the owners wouldn’t think that but they can talk about all how wonderful their customer support was as they file for bankruptcy. 

Borders has already started closing stores, some in major areas, and I can’t help but think… what is wrong with people?!  It’s one thing for a store to close.  It’s a whole thing entirely for an industry to lose a major player.  Again, I’m not here to debate the difference between indie booksellers and Borders booksellers.  My point is that we/society can ill afford to lose another place that SELLS BOOKS!  We’ve already lost the FREE use of the libraries.  Isn’t that enough?  Apparently not.  Some of you won’t be happy until we have one online book retailer and one brick and mortar bookstore. 

Another reason I don’t want Borders to close; I still have friends that work there.  I don’t want to hear about anyone losing their job but it’s even worse when it’s someone you actually know.  The bigwigs of Borders have their nestegg and their money, but what about the inventory clerk?  The music seller?  The supervisors?  The managers?  If you don’t really care about the book industry because you sold out and bought a Kindle, then at least you should care about the PEOPLE that will suffer because of this.  No, I’m not a bleeding heart liberal (quite the opposite if you really know me) but this country needs people working.  And since I’m in the book business that’s where my interest lie.  I’m sure the people that work at the Bakersfield Borders will be fine if worse comes to worse.  They’ll struggle yes, but they’ll make it.  But why even get to that point? 

I truly believe that my book industry would be A-OK if people would do just one thing.  Read.  More.  I just came from a weekend in Vegas (don’t worry I was good) and one thing I noticed was the variety in everything that place has to offer.  There is really something for everyone in that den of sin in the desert.  I bet if I tried really hard I could find a place that sold pretzel bowling balls covered in whipped cream and carrots.  And I bet there would be at least three other businesses that did the same thing!  Competition is good.  It keeps entrepreneurs fresh, current businesses on their toes, and people happy.  Having only two book retailers doesn’t do ANYONE any good!  Once it’s just Amazon and B&N how long do you think before they start price fixing, create more price wars, and the inevitable “who is going to buy whom”?  Actually… I don’t think that last one would happen but you understand my point.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

If you follow my FaceBook posts, my Twitter, and my blogs then you know that I’m an advocate for the love of books.  I LOVE my authors, their work, and the people who read their work.  My joy of books comes from many, many places and I love it when someone buys a book that I recommend.  Of course, if you buy a book or an e-book I want you to buy it from my bookstore Russo’s Books, but that wasn’t what this post was about.  There are plenty of things you can rejoice about.  Free buffalo wings, a muddy Jeep, Tony Braxton singing a ballad, the next iPad, a grocery bag full of steamed blue crab with enough Old Bay to make your eyes water.  A ‘Star Trek: TNG’ marathon, watching a James Bond movie with a rootbeer float, and sleeping late.  Yes, there are a million and one things to be happy about.  The closing of a bookstore should not be one of them.