I Helped Bring Down A Company

Not many years ago, my husband and I were lamenting how the big chain bookstores were putting the small, independent bookstores out of business.  How could the small business owners possibly compete with those corporate giants?  The Twig, a cute little bookstore nestled into a corner on Broadway in Alamo Heights, a small town within the city limits of San Antonio, could order any book we wanted, if it wasn’t already on the shelf, and we chose to support them for awhile instead of going to Borders or Barnes and Noble.  I don’t know if the Twig is still there since we no longer live in Texas, but I have to tell you, we slowly gravitated to the larger chains because they had more on the shelves we could access immediately without waiting, they had more variety, they had bargain books galore, better sales, a coffee shop, and longer hours, including being open on Sundays.  The chains thrived with our and others patronage.

So it was with some sadness that my husband and I read that Borders is closing its doors forever.   Our Borders store is within walking distance, and I have enjoyed walking up there and perusing the shelves.  However, I have to say that I seldom bought anything in the past year.  Yes, I enjoy reading as much as ever, but I bought a Nook recently, an e-reader, and I’m loving it.  I have no more room on my bookshelves for more books.  Besides, for the most part, once I’ve read a book, I have no desire to read it again.  Okay, I have to admit I’ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy three times already, though each reading has been about twenty years apart.  With my Nook, I don’t accumulate books that take up room I don’t have.  Plus, I can get my book immediately.  I also can get the classics for free, or nearly free, because they are in public domain.  I can’t do that at the bookstore.

Technology has made books even more readily accessible, and it is slowly changing the publishing business.  Right now I’m reading a novel by a current author who offered her e-book for free.  It hasn’t even been offered in print. Will publishing houses be more willing to try out new authors in the e-book format without risking all the high costs of expensive runs of books which might not sell?  If the e-book is a hit, they might take on that author for a print run, knowing he or she had a following.  I don’t know how all this will play out, but I do know that things are changing, and companies that can’t or won’t keep up, are destined for a fall.  In fact, it’s not enough to just keep up.  They have to be able to project the changes and prepare for them, something Borders was not quick enough to do.  Yes, they finally came up with an e-reader of their own, but it was too little, too late.  Amazon, with its Kindle, and Barnes and Noble, with its Nook, were way ahead of them.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still love books, real books.  I can’t imagine enjoying poetry nearly as much on an e-reader.  Poetry is something I want to read over, and over, and over again, savoring every word.  I need to see it formatted on the page, and formatting is sometimes an issue with e-readers.  Some books are too unwieldy for me to want to have on an e-reader.  For example, I’m reading Mark Twain’s autobiography, a massive volume, that came out last fall.  In order to make use of all the notes and enjoy close examination of the pictures, I like having the printed version.  But if I want a quick read, a Patterson or a Piccoult, the e-version is just fine.

I feel sorry that so many people are going to lose their jobs as a result of Borders closing.  I will miss walking to that big bookstore, maybe to grab a magazine and sit outside with my iced latte from its coffee shop.  It will be interesting to see what the publishing business looks like ten years down the road.  I’m sorry, Borders, if I contributed to your demise. I assure you, it was inadvertent.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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19 Responses to I Helped Bring Down A Company

  1. My husband had almost this same talk (after visiting the Portland, Maine, Borders yesterday)… I’m not quite sold on e-readers yet (although we do own a Kindle) but I buy almost all my books on amazon. I will miss the trips to the bookstore to see and feel the books, and I especially miss the thought that if/when I finish my books they may never be in a bookstore. I also worry that children will never get the joy my two did at wandering and looking at all the variety of books in a large bookstore. Great post — I wrote one when our local Indie bookstore closed a few months ago and I may write one about Borders….I’ll be so interested to watch prices as the “liquidation sale” goes!

    • comingeast says:

      We stopped by Borders on Friday, the first day of the sale, and there were no great bargains, I can assure you! By the time they finally start giving out bargains, there might not be much to choose from. I can’t think of any other big bookstore chain besides Barnes and Noble, so I worry like you that there won’t be any bookstores to peruse in the not so distant future. But you can take your children to the library, and that’s a treat, too.

  2. e-books are making it “You’ve Got Mail” all over again…so sad, but there’s no way to stop the march of “progress”.

    • comingeast says:

      I agree. One wonders what else is in store for us, good and bad. Sadly, we lose things we felt comfortable with and enjoyed, but they are many times replaced with other things that make our lives more interesting or easy. Wish we could keep both.

  3. Hi! I tend to go to Barnes and Nobles but I treated it like the way you treated Borders. I enjoyed it, but book buying was secondary. I wonder what will happen with the publishing industry. Who knows? Maybe it is cyclical and the “Mom and Pop” stores will come back strong again. Thank you for sharing!


    • comingeast says:

      I would love the little book stores to return, but I don’t think that will happen. Have you noticed all the video stores that are going out of business, too, because of streaming video? One wonders what else will be a thing of the past as technology comes up with more and more realized ideas. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  4. jsh0608 says:

    I was going to say…Hey I live in San Antonio. But you have since moved. I am sad that they are closing Borders. I really hope they don’t get rid of books for I love holding a book to read them.

    • comingeast says:

      Not to worry; I don’t think they’ll get rid of books anytime soon or ever. There will always be a demand for them. And what I wouldn’t give for a fajita or a bean and cheese taco from Taco Cabana right now! Why can’t they open a franchise in Virginia? Thanks for commenting.

  5. Am trying to finish listening to a Tina Fey book on my iPod–but nothing takes the place of my holding a solid book. Yet, like you, I have way too many!!!! No more room. Am saving my favorites and giving the rest away. I no longer buy books anymore either. I’m trying to use my iPad more for reading, and do use the library and Cracker Barrel (for rental books on cd) more nowadays!

  6. Leah says:

    I know how you feel. I wrote something similar last week. And I think you’re right; the worst part is all those people loosing their jobs.

  7. Pingback: Losing Borders | Books in the Burbs

  8. When I lived in Maine we had a Borders and I loved it. I also got an e-reader this winter and I love that I don’t have to stack up books everywhere. I also enjoy reading self-published books. I know I will still purchase some real paper books, but it will be a lot less often. I do still use the library quite a bit.

    It’s a changing world of books. I think that’s good. For the most part.

    • comingeast says:

      I know I will miss puttering around our neighborhood book store, but I feel the same way about my e-reader. There are only a limited number of books one can own before they own you! I love the library, too. I’m supposed to be able to borrow books from the library and read them on my Nook, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet.

  9. Patti Ross says:

    I, too, lament the closing of Borders. And I have not yet gone the way of an e-reader. We are at a cross-roads and things are changing in the publishing/reading world. My hope–the small bookstores might return to give those of us who like the experience and the local connection a place to treasure the printed page. Time will tell. Thanks for your thoughtful review.

    • comingeast says:

      We’re still at the early stages of changes in publishing. I was an editor for a publishing house after college and they were still typesetting in the printing houses. We had a “justifier,” a person whose job it was to use a justifying machine to type the copy in and justify it on the page. Then I’d have to take the train into the city (NYC) to the printing house to look at the Van Dykes (the blue prints of the book) and okay it before it was printed. Such a different world now with computers. But the changes make me miss what we’re losing. Thanks, Patti.

  10. After our local Borders closes, we will have not one single bookstore near us. Sadly, all of the smaller stores closed because Borders rolled into town and crushed them. The closest will be the Barnes and Noble, about a 40 minute drive away. I will miss simply walking around the bookstore, sipping tea, letting my kids explore the children’s section. It was kind of like a comforting Sunday ritual for us as a family. We still go to the library often though. When I was a kid I lived at the library. Nothing like being surrounded by books, the quiet peacefulness. I have managed to not own an ereader, yet. I can see the convenience of it, but I still resist and drag my 1,000 page books around with me.

    • comingeast says:

      I know, Mama. Even though I don’t buy many printed books, I love going to bookstores and scanning the pages, the covers, the pictures, reading the backs of them and inside the covers to see if I would be interested. I didn’t think I would like an e-reader either, especially since I used to be an English teacher for so many years. But it’s great to have one when I fly and for the 12-hour drives up to Boston and back. Progress brings so many good things, but it also means the end of so many other good things. Don’t see any answer to it. I hear you loud and clear, Mama.

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