Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Borders bankrupt; Athens location is safe (for now)

A few weeks back I wrote a short piece over at Beyond the Trestle about why I didn't want the Borders chain to fail. For many moons now, Borders Group has been facing seemingly insurmountable troubles, and today they declared bankruptcy. They have an action plan, though, and hope by shuttering about one-third of their stores (the 200 that are reportedly causing them to lose MILLIONS of dollars) they can save the company at large as they restructure.

I'm not very hopeful that they'll be able to hold on much longer.

The Athens store is a busy, bustling one, though it's never easy from the outside to know if even the busiest-looking retail outlets are indeed profitable. For now, I'm grateful that the acquaintances and strangers at our local Borders have not lost their jobs, benefits, and insurance. That's right: the Athens location is NOT on the list of closing stores. Goodness knows Athens doesn't need any more unemployment.

What consumers must keep in mind is that the death of some bookstores does not at all predict the death of all. Borders' business model is COMPLETELY different from independent bookstores' business models. The buy local initiatives in our country are increasing rapidly, bringing more dollars to our locally-owned businesses (and therefore funneling more money into the local economy). The sheer number of books out there can be overwhelming; it's comforting and necessary to have a book expert at your local store who can help you find the book YOU want to read, not the book all the chains are pushing that week or the book that Amazon's mystical logarithm thinks you want. And you know nothing beats browsing the aisles of a funky, unique bookstore!

Today the American Booksellers Association, the trade association for independently-owned bookstores, released a statement that pretty much sums up how I feel about the situation. They also talk about the successes of most indie booksellers as well as the growing number of us out there. Please read it here.

Note: This piece also appears at Beyond the Trestle.