Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Borders closing ALL its doors after 40 years.

Well, it's really happening:  Borders Books & Music is shuttering its 399 remaining stores, including the one here in Athens in Beechwood Shopping Center on Alps Rd.

The Athens Banner-Herald posted this article today, and of course I decided to formally respond.  Here's what I wrote in the comments section.  Let me know what you think:

Some may be surprised to hear that even though I am a local, independent bookseller, I am saddened by our community's loss.  When Borders closes their 399 stores, approximately 10,700 booksellers will be jobless.  This is heartbreaking for them and for the industry at large.  Many of my friends and acquaintances here list our Alps Rd. Borders as one of their favorite places to hang out, and I feel sympathetic to them--it's hard to lose that "third place."

When Borders' woes were first made very public months ago, I wrote a piece for Beyond the Trestle about what it would mean if Borders were to go under--you can read it here if you're interested:

To answer to a few of the commenters above:  Athens will now be home to just two independent bookstores.  Jackson Street Books downtown sells used books, DVDs, and more.  They have a great collection of competitively priced used materials and antiquarian books.  Avid Bookshop, my store, is currently online and events-based only, but we are moving into a retail storefront on Prince Avenue in the coming months.  We sell both new and used books as well as cards, gifts, and locally-made gift items.

There's a lot of talk out there about the demise of books and reading, but the amount of hours people spend reading has actually remained relatively constant over the last many decades.  When the big box stores began to open all over the country in the early- to mid-1990s, many independent shops lost their customer base and went out of business.  But, time and time again in recent years, we are seeing that the big box stores are having a hard time getting a handle on the rapidly-changing industry.  Some--not all!--independent stores that are willing to alter their business plans and approaches to bookselling are actually thriving, and MANY independent bookstores have been opening in the last couple of years--the number of new indie stores rivals that of the number of new stores per year in the pre-big box days. This is great news for small business, local economies, and, most of all, people who love to read.

All this is to say that I am sad about the closing of Borders and the loss of jobs, but I don't think bookstores are dead.  If you value reading, it behooves you to go to a store you know and love, where you trust the booksellers' recommendations and feel comfortable.  For some people, that place will be Barnes & Noble.  For others, that was Borders.  And for many others (like me), I feel most at home in many of the locally-owned bookstores.  Not all are fabulous, but the ones worth your time are.   
Thanks for reading this long-winded comment!
Janet Geddis
Avid Bookshop LLC
Athens, GA

1 comment:

Nikki said...

The NPR story on Borders this morning nailed it for me - they tried to do too much (too many titles, too many CDs, DVDs, etc, that weird and expensive Paperchase section that never had what I wanted but always cost too much). B&N has been much smarter. It's a shame - but when Media Play went under, Borders should have taken note, because their inventory was weirdly similar.