Friday, February 18, 2011

Borders Books - Burleson Texas, R.I.P. We'll miss you, but don't ask for a bailout

Dang it, dang it, dang it. 
Border's Books has declared bankruptcy. 

They're closing 200 stores, one of which is their Burleson/I-35 store where I've spent many a lunch break.  I got to hear one of my alt-country heroes, Deryl Dodd, play an acoustic show in their coffee bar during the store's grand opening.  (I'm typing this in that same Border's coffee bar, BTW.) 

They're also closing their 30,000 square foot monster store on Preston Road in Dallas.  I used to run stores for Bookstop/Barnes and Noble, and that Border's store kicked my Preston/Forest Bookstop's rear end.  Hard.  Bookstop couldn't compete on selection or service, and couldn't beat them by very much on price.  It was ugly.   

(Full Disclosure:  I left Bookstop because of illness and fatigue.  They got sick and tired of me.)

The Preston Road Border's has great sales but is probably burdened with rent from hell.  Oh well.  They're closing it.   

The Fort Worth Hulen/I-30 store looks safe for now (congratulations, Jackie G.!) as does the south Arlington location. 

Gary Hoover founded Bookstop, sold it to Barnes and Noble, and went on to create business data provider
Gary (once my boss's boss's boss) also doubts that Border's will survive:

Now, the survival of Borders depends on the financial stability of the company, the ability to secure interim funding (GE Capital has promised $505 million in financing) and the willingness of publishers to supply books, Hoover said. But in retailing, unlike the airline industry, it’s uncommon for a company to emerge from bankruptcy, he said.

“If the same management team who has been running it the last several months stays in place, it is only a matter of time until they close up completely. But whether that is six months or six years depends on many variables,”
That's not a vote of confidence. 

I  love books.  I keep them stacked in dangerous piles on my bedside table, I keep them in unlikely piles on my truck seat, and I have various books "started" at my mother's house, my sister's house, a church library, and in two different vehicles.  Until my eyes went bad, I had books beside the bathtub.  (Reading glasses fog up in hot water.) 

I'm sure that I'll eventually get a Kindle or a Nook, but I'm fighting it. 

I'm the same way with CD's.  They're all over the bedroom, leaking by the dozens out of a bookcase across from the bed.  I can't quite go digital.  I don't trust any electronic device with my stuff.  Do a Google search on "symptoms of old age" for more details. 

The Aggie hasn't bought a CD in 6 years.  The main draw at Border's Preston used to be the massive CD selection.  It's now dwindled to a few lonely rows. 


Name an industry worthy of a bailout.  Explain why. 

Did you pick Border's?  Would you be willing to prop up a failing business model and product line with your own money?  Would you take that risk? 
Did you pick Chrysler?  Would you be willing to prop up a failing business model and product line with your own money?  Would you take that risk? 
Did you pick a bank or a Wall Street firm?  Blah? Blah? Blah? Blah?  Would you encourage them to carry on as usual with your money? 

If Texas Governor Rick Perry were to intervene and throw a hundred million taxpayer dollars to the Texas Border's stores because they were "too big too fail", would it give you a warm and runny feeling?  What if he did it to "save and create jobs"?  Would that work for you? 

I didn't think so. 

The marketplace has spoken, which is another way of saying that YOU have spoken.  Rick Perry doesn't know any more about Bookselling than John Boehlout Boehner knew about Wall Street or banks.  There is no difference.  For capitalism to work, government can't support any form of screw-uppery. 
There came a time when the last American Buggy Whip manufacturer had to close its doors.
Ditto for Betamaxes, Edsels, the TRS-80 computers, the Commodore 360's and my beloved Sour Lemon "Now and Laters" candy. 
Within 5 years you won't be able to purchase a new car with a CD player in the dashboard. 

I'm betting that within 10 years, you'll be able to approach some sort of device in any public place and access all of your "stuff" - work, health, movies, music, books, email, pictures, and things we can't even imagine.  Maybe the device will even be portable.
Oh, wait a minute....that has already happened.  I'm typing this on a contraption called a "laptop".  You may have heard of them.  And they've almost killed the filing cabinet industry, the movie rental industry, Virgin Music Megastores, Border's Books, the U.S. Mail, and Eastman/Kodak, and the IBM Selectric typewriter, and World Book Encyclopedias, and the career of Dan Rather.

I used to think that one day I would write a book.  And if it was really good, maybe 3 or 4 thousand people would read it.  I called it my dream.  Now, because of this website, that's not called a dream, it's called.... "Friday".  Or "Monday".  I now reach more people every day than my hometown Sunflower County News used to reach in a week.  The dinosaurs have died out, but the possums lived on....

But I'll miss the Border's in Burleson.  (At the risk of sounding totally contrived and corny, they've already closed the cafe at the Border's Burleson, where I'm typing this, but the Wi-Fi has still been working.  The staff just came by, thanked us for our support, and told us that they're about to turn off the wireless internet.  For good.  I'm switching over to a Sprint/Nextel aircard....speaking of devices that need to be replaced QUICKLY with something better.) 

Heck, you're reading the words of somebody who violently resisted the switch from 8-tracks to cassettes. 

This is what has to happen in order for things to improve.  Dammit. 

The picture of the Debt Star came from here. 


Harper said...

I desperately miss small independent bookstores. I was waxing poetic about them to my teenagers who looked at me like I had a third eye, 'Why would you wait a week to get an actual book when you can download it right this very second?'

I am holding out hope that individualized, exemplary customer service makes a comeback in such a way that it outweighs the instant gratification mindset of today's youth. Or maybe I will become independently wealthy and open a book and record store as a hobby.

Nick Rowe said...

I like bookstores, but they are a wasteful relic.

I have a Kindle that my wife bought me. It's easy to read, there are thousands of free books, and the new books are cheap. It takes up little space.

But it's not as slick as a tablet computer like an iPad. It has a barely functional browser, no accelerometer to automatically switch views, it doesn't have a touchscreen, the menu has no logical order, and you need to hit a symbol key to type numbers. It's a big improvement over the original, but falls short. Your books are saved on your Amazon account, so you never have to worry about losing them. You can download a Kindle reader for your laptop to view your books there. It has PDF support, but if the file isn't configured right, you can't read it.

The iPad is too large for my taste. I'm going to compare the Samsung Tab, the HP Touchpad, and whatever comes out this year. The Sony E-reader is worth a look. It has an accelerometer and touch screen.

I may get a bigger phone so I'll use that for browsing and the Kindle for reading. But the HP Touchpad and Palm Pre 3 are supposed to work together well.

A tablet computer can play movies, has a browser, can resize the screen, plays apps, does email. Hands down they're better than Kindle unless all you want to do is read. The backlit screens of the tablets are reflective and hard on the eyes. They also burn through the battery. The Kindle can go weeks on one charge, but it has no backlight; I got a cover with a built in light.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

I'm writing this from the I-30 and Hulen Borders in Fort Worth now.
They're going to survive the first cuts, but they're nervous.
I'm enjoying the espresso and free reading matter samples while I can!

Dr Ralph said...

Computer books that weigh a ton and go out of date in 6 month: perfect for the iPad, which I like a lot more than I thought I would (I won it in a raffle - if faced with buying something off the street I'd go with some Android tablet).

Books I want to linger over, re-read, lend to friends and keep for a while: print, no two ways about it.

Each has its place.

My favorite physical bookstore these days is Half Price Books, although one of my favorite independents is Denver's Tattered Cover Bookstore. As far as eBooks, I've recently become a fan of Google Books - they beat the other eBook retailers (B&N, Apple, Borders) by a considerable amount on a lot of books.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I'll grieve about Borders. Was my fave when in US. But since I went e-ink and almost totally paperless, I don't take it that hard...