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Borders Books, Dead At 40 443

Posted by timothy
from the will-be-sorely-missed dept.
theodp writes "There will be no storybook ending for Borders. The 40-year-old book seller could start shuttering its 399 remaining stores as early as Friday (store closing map). The Ann Arbor, MI-based chain, which helped pioneer the big-box bookseller concept, is seeking court approval to sell off its assets after it failed to receive any bids that would keep it in business. Hang on to those Borders Midnight Magic Party memories, kids!"
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Borders Books, Dead At 40

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  • by Lumpy (12016)

    Honestly they were overpriced on everything. I have not set foot in a borders or a Barnes and Noble for 3 years now because of their price gouging. No I'm not a trendy yuppie who wants a $4.00 coffee while I browse your store trying to look trendy. Honestly they went for "upscale" instead of a model that would have survived..

    If they would have stuck as a "mom and pop" ish look and had a big old book or used book section they would still be thriving today. Instead they took the "snobby U of M rich guy i

    • by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @08:29AM (#36809914)
      Your complaint, your characterizaiton of them and their customers, your odd notion of what is and what isn't "gouging" and everything else about the tone of your comment suggests that you need to get out more and meet more people. Possibly even some that wear turtlenecks. And it wouldn't hurt for you to spend some time running a retail store, so that your sense of "overpriced on everything" can get connected back to the reality of what it costs to rent, insure, maintain, staff, and market a walk-up book store in the age of Kindles and iPads.

      The mom-and-pop book stores you long for were dying out harder and faster than Borders did, and the ones that survive do so because they've found things beyond the collections of books you mention to sell (mostly, they're transitioning to hybrid coffee shops, galleries, meeting places, lecture venues, etc). Barnes and Noble survives because they squeeked by with the Nook just in time to not get completely eaten by Amazon.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by crawling_chaos (23007)

        the tone of your comment suggests that you need to get out more and meet more people.

        This is Slashdot. That goes without saying.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        I wouldn't say Borders was particularly expensive, or that Amazon is particularly cheap. Where Amazon dominates is reviews. When I am looking at any product, book or otherwise, I always go and read the reviews on Amazon. Other web sites are cottoning on to this now - people want to know if something is any good and value uncensored reviews from other consumers. If people are coming to your site to read the review then there is also a chance they will buy from you.

        Brick and mortar shops can't replicate that.

        • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @09:25AM (#36810600)

          Speaking for me, where Amazon dominates is in selection and in *used* books (and used videogames, etc.). If I want a book on a particular subject, I can drive to my local Borders and hope they have a decent book on it (usually not the best on the subject) and pay full retail price on it. Or I can go to my library and look at a bunch of books that are usually years out of date and hope that I can find a decent one that isn't checked out. Or I can go online to Amazon, see every book ever published on the subject, read reviews to find the best one, and then buy it used for a small fraction of what it would have cost new. And the same applies to videogames, DVD's, etc.

          The only real advantage that brick and mortars enjoy is that I can get a book immediately (but the Kindle is making even that point moot), and that I can browse. But, since my tastes are not exactly mainstream, browsing isn't really much of an advantage to me. I have no desire to browse isle after isle of Harry Potter knockoffs and vampire romances, thank you. And I'm not a big coffee drinker.

      • by hellfire (86129) <`deviladv' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @09:23AM (#36810586) Homepage

        Books at brick and mortar stores tend to be overpriced compared to those sold online. That's not because Borders is gouging them, but because the publishers demand so much. Retailers' margins are thin. So yes they are expensive but Borders didn't "do it to themselves." Borders and B&N have a quaint, warm, relaxed experience but the most hard core book buyers go online now for better prices.

        B&N actually survives because they have a good website in competition with Amazon, and frankly their selection has always been better than borders. B&N also has Starbucks in their stores, which gives them a hipster mystique for those who just want to come in and sit and read and have some Starbucks coffee. Funny enough, Borders tried to get early in the game of book selling online and who did they contract with?... Amazon. Most people don't realize this fact seriously delayed Borders' web strategy rather than enhancing it. They didn't have the vision to see web commerce coming and Amazon did to them what they did to mom and pop book shops. And they spent no time getting any experience in marketing and selling on the web because they contracted with Amazon in the early days. I'm betting Amazon knew this and went ahead hoping to basically steal sales from Borders original paltry websites. So in a sense, Borders did to it to themselves, it's just it had everything to do with not getting online fast enough.

        • by Fnord666 (889225)

          B&N also has Starbucks in their stores, which gives them a hipster mystique for those who just want to come in and sit and read and have some Starbucks coffee.

          Interesting fact:
          Seattle's Best Coffee, which was the coffee featured in and the focus of the coffee shops in Borders, is a wholly owned subsidiary [wikipedia.org] of Starbucks.

    • by RazzleFrog (537054) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @08:29AM (#36809922)

      How were they overpriced? They sold at the same exact price any other brick and mortar book store sold new books at - the price stamped on the back by the publisher. You want used books - go to the Strand.

      • by Totenglocke (1291680) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @08:39AM (#36810036)
        Their books weren't overpriced but their cd's / dvd's / blu-ray's were obscene. When you see Border's charging $40 for a new movie and you can walk into Best Buy down the street and buy the same exact thing for $20, there's no reason to buy non-book items from Border's.
        • by demonbug (309515)

          Their books weren't overpriced but their cd's / dvd's / blu-ray's were obscene. When you see Border's charging $40 for a new movie and you can walk into Best Buy down the street and buy the same exact thing for $20, there's no reason to buy non-book items from Border's.

          Their stance on cd's/dvd's was/is really strange. They charge obscene prices for them, as you say, so the only times I ever bought these items from them were when they were on clearance (very rare) or when I got some especially good deal mailed to me - like the time they sent out a coupon for 60% off any boxed set (which I used to buy Flying Circus on DVD). I don't know anyone who regularly bought movies or music from them. And yet, a couple of years ago they went through and completely redid the interior o

      • How were they overpriced? They sold at the same exact price any other brick and mortar book store sold new books at - the price stamped on the back by the publisher.

        Just about any amount stamped on a product by a manufacturer is by definition overpriced. Those numbers exist mainly so that retailers can show how much of a "discount" they're offering.

        If you're a captive in a place like an airport gift shop, then you're usually stuck paying the full stamped overpriced amount. However, if a retailer tries charging those prices to non-captive customers, then they'll likely eventually find themselves in the same boat as Borders.

    • by Zouden (232738)

      In their defence, the "snobby U of M rich guy in a turtleneck" direction is usually quite profitable.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        No it's not. Not when they typically adopt the latest change... I.E. buying online and the Ebook.

        The turtleneck crowd adopted the Kindle fast. guess what that leaves... only the poor people to buy books in a book store.. and the poor people are turned off by the prices. Honestly, their prices on all non books were downright obscene in their markup often 2X of what best buy had them at.

        When you target the rich demographic, you have to change what you offer to match what they are after... and Borders was

    • Honestly they were overpriced on everything.

      Too true. I live outside the US, and can get books air-freighted in from Amazon in the US for significantly less (half the price, sometimes a quarter of the price) of the shelf price at the local Borders. That's a pretty severe sign of price-gouging.

    • by Hydian (904114)

      Selling at MSRP is hardly "overpriced" and they regularly gave out coupons for large discounts and had sales.

      Outside of technical books, I generally prefer going to a brick and mortar for books over a site like Amazon even if it does cost me 20% more. It is much easier to search through a topic or genre for a book that interests me when there is a huge shelf full of actual books then trying to do searches on the internet. I tend to buy books for pleasure reading on impulse, so again, the internet model do

      • by CRCulver (715279)

        Selling at MSRP is hardly "overpriced"

        It is. When you're a large, nationwide chain, you can negotiate with the publisher for lower prices and leave your unorganized competitors stuck with the MSRP. Amazon did with great success, but Borders didn't.

        It is much easier to search through a topic or genre for a book that interests me when there is a huge shelf full of actual books then trying to do searches on the internet.

        Some of the pirated books communities are making it as easy to browse through a subject a

        • Borders and Barnes & Noble employ cashiers, people to stock shelves, and janitors and have thousands of retail outlets which require running water, air conditioning, heating, and local taxes in addition to the cost of running a website and distribution warehouses. Amazon only has the website and distribution warehouses, their business costs per book sold were dramatically lower. Borders probably did have special pricing deals with the publishing companies, but they needed to net 40% or more profit p
          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            Borders probably did have special pricing deals with the publishing companies, but they needed to net 40% or more profit per book to cover their operating expenses.

            But somehow, their small, independent mom-n-pop competitors could sell books at the same MSRP even though they didn't have these special pricing deals or economies of scale?

            Sorry, they were gouging, plain and simple.

      • While an e-book reader with always-on 3G doesn't really make browsing any easier, it certainly makes impulse buys of books dead simple.

      • It is simply very difficult to shop for books online unless you already know what you want. For technical books and books from an author I know and like, Amazon is fine. For random "Hmm, I feel like reading something new" times, it's much nicer to wander around inside a store. I'll pay the extra 20% to be able to have shelves. real books that you can flip through a read a few lines, and a friendly person that you can ask about what's new and what they're read recently. Yes, of course they're trying to s

        • If you want to help them keep track, then make use of their "read in store" feature on the Nook. :)
          • I'm assuming that they keep track based on the fact that I use their wifi to buy the books. The Nook seems to know that it's in a B&N and the wifi seems to know you're using a Nook. I don't think I've ever used the "read in store option", simply becasue it's easier to flip through the physical books while I'm there. I should probably ask someone at the store, they probably know.

    • by Xest (935314)

      The UK Borders chain closed down about a year or two ago. It's a bit of a shame because we really have nothing else comparative nationwide, perhaps the closests is Waterstones but most their stores only sell the latest romance novel or Jordan autobiography and shite like that rather than a useful range of maths/science/computing books. Short of going to a handful of cities like Cambridge which still have good book stores, there's really nothing- pretty much the whole of the North of England seems devoid of

    • I was amazed and annoyed that they didn't even have real sodas! No Coke or Pepsi or Mountain Dew or Sprite or 7 up.

      Instead you had to buy strange expensive caffeine free root beer or fruit sodas etc.

  • ...my local Half Price Books is going to be getting some new stock!
  • They're competing with Amazon. The one thing they could've relied upon, namely the fact that there are a lot of older people who like books and don't understand the internet or computers, is a lot less true now than it was even five years ago. Hell, my mom gets most of her new book purchases online, from Amazon or elsewhere.

    Take note: businesses can die in this day and age even when piracy is removed from the equation. Legitimate online purchases will probably do more to kill bookstores, movie rental and

  • Fahrenheit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by improfane (855034) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @08:24AM (#36809882) Journal

    Who needs to burn books and things that last when you have technology to do it for you?

    I hate to say it but technology both gives you freedom and inherently takes other freedom away.

    Books will slowly become the domain of the academic and public service, so they will gradually fade from prominence. With ebooks, you are at the whim of the ebook publisher, DRM, the ebook reader manufacturer and of course electricity.

    Don't let that stop you buying ebooks though, I try own a physical version for important books. I see an ebook as a modern day convenience most certainly not an equivalent replacement.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      With ebooks, you are at the whim of the ebook publisher, DRM, the ebook reader manufacturer and of course electricity.

      Dude, if you get to the point where availability of electricity is preventing you from reading, you're going to be using your paper books for firewood or toilet paper. Either that, or somebody else will be stealing them from you for those purposes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by osu-neko (2604)
      Yes. Buy a car, and you're at the mercy of oil companies, government licensing agencies and public infrastructure. But you'll get further faster than you did on foot nonetheless...
    • Re:Fahrenheit (Score:4, Insightful)

      by arcite (661011) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @08:43AM (#36810074)
      Books will become antiques and collectors items. If one looks at the 21 century information society, books have no place in it. Once all current books are scanned and fully digitized, any human on the planet with an internet connection will be able to access them. This is a powerful tool that is not fully realized. e-book technology is till in its infancy. You're also fooling yourself if you assume that a paper book is automatically superior to a digital version. A paper book only has one copy, is probably printed on cheap paper, supportable to moisture, mold, insect, natural disaster, fire... you name it. Books are perishable goods and none too portable. Digital information is forever and can be backed up infinitely.
      • Speak up kid! Come a bit closer so I can hear you... closer... closer... *whacks arcite over the head with the fully annotated works of Tolkien in hard cover* try that with your kindle. See, the blood and pieces of brain just scrape off while your kindle would have broken as the cheap plastic toy it is.

        Whacking whipper snappers, just one of the many reasons books are better.

        I got a bible from my great-grandfather that went around the world and survived two world wars on the front lines. Your drm'ed bible is

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Oh, you jest about digital information.

          Books cannot be locked out based on date
          Books do not require an internal power source
          Books can survive missing a page or two, devices are less resiliant (scratch the screen, for example)
          Books allow for easy notation
          Books can be passed on without concerns of format compatibility.
          Books cannot be remotely edited, and the various editions actually add to the assorted nature of books. (ooh, a first edition, sweet! but the 3rd edition was where they got rid of the translatio

      • Re:Fahrenheit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @09:27AM (#36810632) Homepage Journal
        If one looks at the 21 century information society, books have no place in it.

        Congratulations on tossing aside thousands of years of human history. The written word is necessary in a society where not everyone has the ability to purchase a digital device which may or make not work depending on the whim of the manufacturer and the ability of electricity.

        any human on the planet with an internet connection will be able to access them.

        Congratulations again. You've just excluded at least one third of the world's population, most likely closer to half, who don't have a net connection and will probably not have one in the foreseeable future for various reasons. Cost and infrastructure being the two biggest culprits.

        A physical book is what reminds us that not everything has to be available at an instant, that we can take our time to sit down and enjoy ourselves without the worry of glare off a screen, our batteries running out or spilling our Dew on the device and shorting it.

        While books may be perishable, they are far more durable than any electronic device. Excluding fire and lack of light, a book is available at any time and any place. Not so with an e-book. In addition to spilling a liquid on it, one can crack the device if misplaced in a bag, scratch or otherwise damage the screen, lose power, bake it in the sun, and a whole host of other issues, including mold.

        People have always looked back when something we took for granted was replaced by something which was supposed to be "new and better". To quote Barney Stinson, "New is always better." To which Ted asked, "So those new Star Wars movies, are they better than the old ones?"

        Ted then asks Wendy what their newest Scotch is, to which the answer is, Jimbo Jim's Grape Scotch. Oh, and don't let it touch your skin.

        New is not always better. If you feel the need to rush through your day, go for it. But don't tell others they won't be able to sit down and take their time to read a physical book because you think they are a waste. There's a reason the few copies of the Guttenberg Bible, the works of Shakespeare and Darwin's works are so valuable. They are the physical manifestation of the author writ for all humanity. If a book is sufficient for Jean Luc Picard, it is sufficient for everyone.

        The same cannot be said for a bunch of electrons.
      • by mlts (1038732) *

        I will be a devil's advocate here, even though I use e-books all the time (mainly because it is a lot easier to carry a Kindle with an IBM Redbook and the O'Reilly UNIX admin books on it than to have the physical volumes.)

        We are giving a lot of power to the people who sell the eBook readers. It might be that in the future that the next Catcher in the Rye may not be subject to book burnings and bannings -- it may just silently vanish due to a kill command issued to our readers.

        eBooks are still in the infanc

      • Digital information is forever and can be backed up infinitely.

        The information is "forever" only so long as the media lasts, and only so long as you can still read the media.

        I have various backup media, which were the primary form of media since I've been a programmer, which would require custom-built hardware to be readable today. Not only is the hardware no longer commonly available, the hardware wouldn't be able to interface with any modern computer.

        I have books, however, which were printed a cent

      • Re:Fahrenheit (Score:5, Interesting)

        by steelfood (895457) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @12:35PM (#36813026)

        Books last centuries. We're able to read Da Vinci's journal and Fermat's copy of Mathematica where he wrote down his famous last theorem. How long will an e-book last? Will notes and remarks remain for the life of the e-book?

        Your assetion that digital is forever, which is the entire basis of your statement, is simply and completely false. Digital data has not and will not withstand the test of time. Most sites from the early 90's, just two decades ago no longer exist, even if you're only looking at contents and not layout or design. Even the Wayback Machine doesn't have every page of every site, not to mention that there are sites that existed before the Wayback Machine. Even if a site was archived, the chances of the Wayback Machine and archive.org no longer being present within the next 100 years is much greater than the chances of all copies of any book degrading to the point of illegibility in the same timespan. The only information stored digitally that has even a chance of being perpetually propogated for more than a few years are the things that remain popular throughout. Historically, the only thing that remotely qualifies are religious and philosophical texts. And even then, most of those texts are often passed down to modernity having gone through translation, modification, and pieces have been outright lost.

        You need to snap out of the "technology is humanity's savior" and "newer is always better" attitude. Technology is an enabler. That's all it is. It doesn't replace what exists already, it makes certain trade-offs to enable other things and open up other doors.

        Books can be read with no electrical infrastructure, no equipment except your eyes, and can survive any environment. Your e-book reader needs a power source and the maintenance thereof, and can only operate under normal conditions. The contents of a damaged book can be partially recovered, in particular, the parts that aren't damaged. The contents of a damanged e-reader may not be recoverable at all. And I'm not even talking about DRM, which makes it even worse. Books can be buried underground for ages during times of turmoil. Your e-book reader's battery will be unable to hold charge after a few decades. Books are relatively easy to print and copy, difficult to retroactively modify, and impossible to completely remove from the face of the planet, short of burning every last copy. Electronic books, especially on a DRM'ed medium, can not only be removed from your perpetually-connected reader without your consent, but the contents can be subtly or otherwise changed en mass. Books cost $7-$10 for a mass market paperback, $20-$30 for a hardcover. E-books cost the same, plus the cost of the reader and the electricity the reader uses.

        Besides which, I'd like to see you try to recover your e-book reader after you've dropped it into your pool or the ocean or even the toilet (in fact, you might not care to recover your book while you'll probably be more motivated to recover your reader, which is a huge plus for books right there).

        There's a reason why certain aspects of life have remained the same for centuries, and it's not necessarily because people are incapable of or resistant to change. Some things have already met the ideal or are so close to them that any further attempts at improvement will require more time and effort than the improvement is worth. Books are one of them.

      • Re:Fahrenheit (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @12:37PM (#36813060)

        Books will become antiques and collectors items. If one looks at the 21 century information society, books have no place in it. Once all current books are scanned and fully digitized, any human on the planet with an internet connection will be able to access them.

        How about those without Internet connections? Either those that just don't want them, or those in places that don't have them?

        Not everyone (not even the majority) are connected 24/7 like many Big City Dwellers.

        Some people just don't feel the need to be tethered.

        And - believe it or not - *MANY* people *like* books.

    • That's the temperature I calculated a Kindle will melt at.
  • We've got a Borders here in town... And I won't miss them when they close their doors.

    It's been a long time since I was able to go there and buy a book that wasn't on some best-seller list. And they've got more movies, music, calendars, and bookmarks than they have actual books at our store. There's a reason they're going out of business.

    • Re:won't be missed (Score:5, Informative)

      by osu-neko (2604) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @08:38AM (#36810018)

      We've got a Borders here in town... And I won't miss them when they close their doors.

      It's been a long time since I was able to go there and buy a book that wasn't on some best-seller list. And they've got more movies, music, calendars, and bookmarks than they have actual books at our store. There's a reason they're going out of business.

      They would have gone out of business sooner if they only had books. They added all those other things in an attempt to get people to come in and buy something at least...

      • Re:won't be missed (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Ephemeriis (315124) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @08:59AM (#36810272)

        They would have gone out of business sooner if they only had books. They added all those other things in an attempt to get people to come in and buy something at least...

        I'll certainly agree that reading, in general, is less popular these days. And it must be hard to run a business that sells books these days. Especially with a monster like Amazon out there. But I don't think the solution is to become some kind of half-assed media retailer.

        Start selling video games, or movies, or music... And now you're competing with folks who've based their entire business on that (EB, FYE), and the commercial giants like Wal-Mart who can genuinely afford to do a little of everything. You aren't shoring up your strengths with diversity - you're venturing into very dangerous waters populated with some very hungry fish.

        Our local Barnes & Noble is doing just fine. Yes, they carry some bookmarks and calendars... And they've got a Starbucks in the lobby... But the vast majority of their store is devoted to books. Shelves upon shelves of books. They've got a huge section of very cheap used books... They've got all the current best-sellers... They've got a wide assortment of pretty much everything - fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, romance, all of it... They've got knowledgeable employees who can actually tell me something about the books on the shelves, and help me find what I'm looking for... They've got less popular, more obscure titles that I can't find elsewhere (like at Borders)... They've got comfortable seating right in the midst of all the shelves so that I can actually sit down and read through a chapter or two and see if I want to buy the book... And they are genuinely embracing digital distribution.

        In short - where Borders dealt with a changing book market by watering-down its offerings to the point where I had no reason to visit their store; B&N has responded to that same changing market by improving its offerings and becoming my first (and usually only) stop when looking for a book.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      EXACTAMUNDO. I come from Santa Cruz and the borders there is the most useless bookstore EVER. If you're a yuppie you can stay basically eternally but the slightly scuzzy are kicked out rapidly, and they make up a big portion of scruz. The selection is shit, mostly just bestsellers as you'd imagine... and just a couple blocks up the street is Logos, one of the best used bookstores (they have a massive new selection as well) that I've ever been to. I won't just not miss it, I'll be glad when it's gone, and th

  • Does this mean a sequel to You've got mail [imdb.com] is coming? "You've got mail - The revenge of sweet blondie"?
  • The lesson I take from this is that the local retail is doomed unless we figure out how to address the online tax advantage.

    Borders is a high profile example of a brick and morter shop that can't compete in an environment where its primary competition has an unnatural advantage. Amazon doesn't pay sales tax. Sure, it had some missteps along the way, like having Amazon run its web sites. But if Borders can't compete, do you think Mom and Pop retailers will? This impacts not or future local retailing envi

    • The US could introduce a goods and services tax at the federal level and pass the revenue to state (and ultimately) local governments.

      • The US could introduce a goods and services tax at the federal level and pass the revenue to state (and ultimately) local governments.

        Which would raise the price of everything, and do nothing about the online advantage.

        Buying from Amazon generally means you'll pay no sales tax. If the Feds were to add a goods and services tax, everyone would pay that AND the sales tax.

        Except for online retailers, of course.

        Or do you really think the States will do away with their sales taxes just because the Feds hand

      • by Intron (870560)

        The US could introduce a goods and services tax at the federal level and pass the revenue to state (and ultimately) local governments.

        Businesses that have offices in multiple states are already used to filing lots of state paperwork. There's no reason to get the fed involved - just charge sales tax for goods shipped to the states that collect it. Its not a very big lookup table. Then the businesses send a form and a check to each state every quarter - that's potentially 200 extra items of work per year. Nothing for Amazon. Software and services to handle this for small businesses would appear overnight if it was to much work to do by

    • It's not just the tax. Even if they do pass some law that clusterfucks the online retailers with having to deal with every town in Podunk County, West Bumblefuck, they still can't beat the websites' biggest advantage: selection. One website can list the inventory for a ton of warehouses/distribution centers (a la Amazon) whereas the B&Ms are limited to what's there. Which gives the latter the edge when you need your widget right now... assuming, of course, that it's in stock and you don't have to order

    • by khr (708262)

      Amazon doesn't pay sales tax

      In some places they do... I'm in New York and my Amazon orders certainly do have New York sales tax added. Bummer my Oregon state billing address doesn't override that... But oh well, that's just one of the costs of living in New York City...

    • by JBMcB (73720)

      It isn't sales tax - it's not having to pay property tax, or salespeople, or operating expenses on retail stores scattered all over the country. A few percent sales tax is nothing when Amazon regularly discounts *everything* 10%-20% off MSRP.

    • The tax advantage is rather modest, and usually eaten up by shipping on online purchases (though Amazon has unusually good shipping terms and can avoid this to some extent). The big advantage is logistics and supply chain. Amazon maintains a dozen or so Warehouses, Borders maintains hundreds of stores. Amazon, in total, probably employes fewer people than Borders employs in a particularly large state like New York or Texas. When you go to borders and they don't have you want, you go home and order from

    • by vlm (69642)

      The lesson I take from this is that the local retail is doomed unless we figure out how to address the online tax advantage.

      The only direct online tax advantage is sales tax, possibly the most regressive of all taxes, with the possible exception of certain low-income related sin taxes like tobacco taxes. In a race to the bottom, either the sales tax goes bye bye, or the local retail businesses, employees, and customers, go bye bye. Places that desperately want a sales tax can keep it, if they're willing to adsorb the unemployment, and people who are willing to live in an area with retail ghost towns. More power to them, but I

    • by couchslug (175151)

      That doesn't address the travel advantage. I don't care to PAY to TRAVEL to LOOK at BOOKS when I can browse and buy online. That's more than a few percent price penalty. If I have to ORDER a book in person then I must TRAVEL to pick it up.

      I don't care about store ambiance when I can chill in my recliner at home and shop naked while surfing /.

  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @08:46AM (#36810108) Journal

    Technology caught up with their distribution system.

    But I don't think much of the long term prospects of the likes of Apple's music business and Amazon either, at least not in its current form. Sure, they're relatively hot and new now. But fundamentally, they're still all about charging customers on a per copy basis. We won't settle for less than the best forever. And I don't think the Netflix model is it either.

    I think the future is the digital public library.

  • The 40-year-old book seller could start shuttering its 399 remaining stores as early as Friday

    Seriously, what's with the recent rise in usage of the word 'shuttering'. I mean, I'm gay and all.. but I'm not THAT gay to use the word shuttering.

    • It just means more straight people are discovering the joy of shuttering. Pretty soon everyone will be doing it! Sure someone might get hurt, and there will be the usual Congressional hearings. I'm sure some Republican Congressman (He knows who he is) will be caught shuttering like crazy in a men's room of some airport. But you know how it is with any fad, once the initial thrill wears off, everyone will just hose the santorum off the walls and ceiling and move on to whatever the next thing is. Now would be
    • The 40-year-old book seller could start shuttering its 399 remaining stores as early as Friday

      Seriously, what's with the recent rise in usage of the word 'shuttering'. I mean, I'm gay and all.. but I'm not THAT gay to use the word shuttering.

      In a bad economy, it's only natural that the supply of synonyms for "closing" would be getting low.

  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @08:47AM (#36810124) Homepage
    They sold too many web development books in the 90's to Amazon employees.
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @08:50AM (#36810158)

    After I got out of grad school in the early nineties I discovered that having an advanced degree from one of the top 5 universities in the country didn't count for squat. After 18 months' fruitless search I got a job at a hedge fund fiduciary. 8 awful months later the giant hedge fund Long Term Capital Management blew up and nearly took the US economy with it then & there. People invested in hedge funds freaked, pulled out all their money, and I was without a job again.

    I got a temp job in Northern Trust Bank's Private Banking division working up investment plans for rich people. The Private Banking division used Excel, of course. It was slow, and repetitious.

    So I spent evenings and weekends sitting in Borders taking notes from their books on Visual Basic and VBA in order to automate the process. I couldn't afford to buy the books, I was so poor, and the library only carried books on Fortran and Basic and COBOL. I taught myself how to program that way (yes, I know it was only Visual Basic), and wound up reducing the turnaround time of the Private Banking division from 2 wks to an hour and a half. The division manager promptly fired me and stole my work, but I had found a new window of opportunity. I did more VB work, then added MS Access, then transitioned to VBScript during the dotcom days.

    I switched to LAMPP in 1998 and haven't looked back. But it was those days & nights in Borders that allowed me to chart a course for a relatively stable career, given the turbulence of IT and Internet over the past decade. I dunno if their business model has any future, but for me then it was the right place at the right time.

    RIP Borders

    • Today, you'd just go pirate the books. Much simpler, actually.
    • by vlm (69642)

      After I got out of grad school

      one of the top 5 universities in the country

      the library only carried books on Fortran and Basic and COBOL

      These three statements don't seem to go together. I attended a big no-name public uni and transferred to a small no-name college (smaller grad class than my high school...) and their libraries were beyond awesome. Especially the big no-name uni which subscribed to apparently every research journal that exists. Unless the school is located in a slum area, the libraries never check for ID or have any security at all, just show up in the evening when the older folks take night classes, carry a backpack and/

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @09:36AM (#36810728)

      and the library only carried books on Fortran and Basic and COBOL

      You point to a larger issue with public libraries here. With Amazon they've become almost worthless. Their collections are usually laughably out-of-date and small. Back in the day this wasn't so much a problem for them, because the only alternative was the local bookstore. But now Amazon has a selection that puts even university libraries to shame, and you can buy CHEAP from them (used copies of books often cost just a few dollars, even with shipping). Now there is really no need to settle for a crappy library book that's way out-of-date when I can *buy* the best book on the subject for next to nothing on Amazon (and no due dates to worry about).

  • I mainly shopped for DVDs in borders stores but lately they have reorganised and made it really difficult to find stuff. I could never work out their system so I wound up doing alphabetical searches in each small category. It would be easier if they just had a big stack of titles, alphabetically sorted. I assume this was some MBA inspired technique to get me to discover something else to buy in the other categories, or to spend more time in the store. In practice I couldn't find what I wanted so I went to J

  • by SmarterThanMe (1679358) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @09:01AM (#36810318)

    Doesn't surprise me. I worked for a chain bookstore (not Borders) when I was at uni, and they put me in the Motivation and Health section. By the way, let me introduce myself, I'm a teacher who specialises in working with gifted kids, and one of the things that I'm really good at is picking good, relatively advanced books for young kids who are beyond the books that their librarians and teachers use for other children. I read a lot of kids and YA fiction, and textbooks and educational texts, of course, but also scifi, fantasy and historical fiction, as well as non-fiction books in a number of areas. Notice something missing? I don't fucking read Motivation or Health! I can't even take those fucking books seriously, let alone sell them!

    This wouldn't have been a problem, if it weren't for the rigidity of the PHB's that ran the place. My role was to stand by a shelf, and only help people who needed help with that section. One of my colleagues' spot was to stand by the self-service information computer behind a shelf, and almost literally jump out at people if they were having trouble with the search functionality (which only googled the bookstore's public website). As much as possible, I wasn't to move, and I had to do things as quickly as possible. One day, I spent 20 minutes upselling ~$150 worth of photo books and Australian kids' books to a tourist and I got a formal warning for walking away from my section and leaving it in the hands of two of my colleagues.

    Let's talk about my colleagues, though. There was a guy hired at the same time as me who I was speaking to one day... Me: "So, what books do you read?"; Him: "Oh, I don't."; Me: "You don't... Read books?"; Him: "Yeah, they're boring." Awesome. He was Employee of the Month at some point after I left. I haven't been back there in a while, but I think he's probably still working there.

    Their buying policy was brilliant, also. They bought hundreds of copies of things that they thought fit with the Australian psyche, i.e., obsessed with sport. So we were always left with hundreds of copies of the latest ghost written biography of some cricketer that we could literally not give away in the end. These books were always such an albatross around our necks that our PHB's were insisting that we keep them on the shelves, and sending newer, more popular books to storage or to the warehouse. If you wanted one of those newer more interesting books? You have to wait for it to be retrieved (a couple of days, usually), but please take a heavily discounted the 3rd volume of Warwick Smythe's test cricket antics that he paid someone from South Africa to write.

    I shouldn't complain too much though. The 50% employee discount was awesome. Most of the long term employees were great people. Some of the supervisors were genuinely cool people. I laugh as I remember back to thinking back over having to help people "find a book, it has like a blue cover and words, I think", or "choose a motivation book for me, I don't know which one to choose."

    These book chains are dying because they're trying to do business as if nothing has changed. They're hiring the cheapest, dumbest possible labour when people are only willing to go to a bookstore and pay a bit more than they would at Amazon because they want to talk to someone knowledgeable and well-read about books.

    • by vlm (69642)

      I'm a teacher who specialises in working with gifted kids

      Cool, I enjoyed your type when I was a student, received good advice. Sadly, locally all those positions have been eliminated to save money, hire bilingual teachers, hire guards and truancy officers, etc. So look out for your job..

      because they want to talk to someone knowledgeable and well-read about books

      Ask yourself honestly, if anyone could afford books if the retailer had to pay your current salary to sales clerks... Also don't take it personally but you missed the biggest problem with your previous management, if I want book buying advice about "motivation and health" I wan

  • Kathleen Kelly, thou art avenged!
  • I live in the Lansing, MI area, about 60 miles from Ann Arbor. I've never seen a Borders book store.

    The booksellers I see here are Barnes & Noble and Schuler Books & Music (based in Grand Rapids, MI, 60 miles in the other direction).

    Apparently we DID have some in the area under Borders other name, Waldenbooks, but those were tiny compared to the huge, sprawling stores the other two have... the closest Barnes and Nobles is a two-floor building in the middle of East Lansing, across from the Michigan

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