Monday, January 24, 2011

Why Borders closing won't help anyone...

I can’t open my laptop and visit my normal bookish websites without hearing about the ever so near decimation of Borders. The facts aren’t a secret: they have amassed serious debt, a few publishers have stopped shipping books to them, and they have had more restructuring than Heidi Montag face! Now, me being an indie bookseller you might wonder why I’m about to write a blog AGAINST the closing of Borders. That’s easy. I’m a bookLOVER first and a book seller second. Borders may be my competition in the retail world but in the literary world we’re (forgive me) sort of kindred spirits. When I hear people talk about how wonderful it would be if Borders were to close, I want to hold them down and beat them like their name is Tina Rihanna Turner. It’s not just a corporate giant closing dumb ass; it’s a place that sells books.

Ask any teacher; the successful education of a student is directly impacted by how much or how LITTLE they read. The same goes for a community. Show me a community that could give a damn about reading and I’ll show you one that is docile, weak, and uneducated. Will Borders closing mean the end of society? No. But if it does close, it’ll be yet another place that sells books that our community will not have access to. Let’s also dispel an incredibly common and stupid misconception: just because one company closes does not mean that people will flock to their competition. IE: Borders impending doom does not mean that people will flock to Russo’s Books or Barnes & Noble. I’m so over this so called customer loyalty. Customer loyalty has gone the way of chivalry. Well all want to believe it, we’ve heard of it, and we love to wax nostalgia over it, but its gone man. Gone. Customers are loyal to their pocketbooks. Game. Set. Match. I know, I know there are your exceptions and I appreciate you. But for the other 98%… spare me.

The state of the book industry can probably be described as an overweight elephant trying to ice skate on frozen grease wearing dull skates. We are trying to figure out the happy medium between print books, e-books, e-readers, and real h-readers. Despite that, I truly believe that we (the book industry) would be able to weather this storm IF people would read more. But let me get back to my original post… Borders has partially created its own current beat-down by past bad business practices but even then; does that mean that people should throw a party because their doors might close? No. I hope Borders doesn’t close for a number of reasons. The first of them being I DO NOT want Barnes & Noble and Amazon to hold a monopoly on retail book selling. There is Books-A-Million but they are almost a non-issue when compared to Goliath and Goliath. They are the third largest brick and mortar retail book store but that’s like saying Chelsea Handler is the smartest blonde out of Jenna Jameson and Jessica Simpson. Publishers have proven they could give a two fucks about independent bookstores, so watching those two morons go at it to see who can sell a piece of intellectual property for less than $10 would be worse than watching fat-midget-amputee porn.

Independent bookstore have used the mantra of “support your local bookstore” for decades. It’s a nice Woodstock rallying cry but people don’t really care. I wonder if people will even bat an eye if Borders does indeed close. Oh you’ll hear the same clichéd bullshit lines of “I loved them”, “I shopped there all the time”. Don’t believe any of it. If people shopped bookstore as often as they THOUGHT they did, this would be a nation of bookstores. As it is, it’s become a nation of “how much does this cost? WHAT!?! $15!?! I’m going to Amazon”. You smile but I’m serious. It turns my stomach when people shop the price of a book rather than the subject, genre, title, buzz, or author.

In the next few days a monster in the indie bookstore world, ‘Mystery Bookstore’, in Los Angeles will close. You can read about it later but what’s REALLY sad is that there wasn’t another bookstore around them! There is the UCLA bookstore but that doesn’t even come close. No Borders, no Barnes & Noble, no Books-A-Million, and no other indie bookstore. What does this tell you? Despite their huge impact on the book community and their community in general they still had to close. Damn. The community figured they could get along just fine without them. They are more stupid than Congress. The community gave them a big phat middle finger and said “thanks, but no thanks”. (again, customer loyalty my high yellow ass). I’m sure the owners wouldn’t think that but they can talk about all how wonderful their customers were as they file for bankruptcy.

Borders has already started closing stores, some in major areas, and I can’t help but think… what the hell is wrong with people?! It’s one thing for A store to close. It’s a whole thing entirely for an industry to lose a major supplier. Again, I’m not here to debate the difference between indie booksellers and Borders booksellers. My point is that we/society can ill afford to lose another place that SELLS BOOKS! We’ve already lost the FREE use of the libraries. Isn’t that enough? Apparently not. Some of you won’t be happy until we have one online book retailer and one brick and mortar bookstore. (It won’t happen by the way so you can stop your wet dream).

Another reason I don’t want Borders to close; I still have friends that work there. I don’t want to hear about anyone losing their job but it’s even worse when it’s someone you actually know! The bigwigs of Borders have their protection and their money, but what about the inventory clerk? The music seller? The supervisors? The managers? If you don’t really care about the book industry because your dumb ass bitched out and bought a Kindle, then at least you should care about the PEOPLE that will suffer because of this. No, I’m not a bleeding heart liberal (quite the opposite if you really know me) but this country needs people working. And since I’m in the book business that’s where my interest lie. I’m sure the people that work at the Bakersfield Borders will be fine if worse comes to worse. They’ll struggle yes, but they’ll make it. But why even get to that point?

I truly believe that my book industry would be A-OK if people would do just one thing. Read. More. I just came from a weekend in Vegas (don’t worry I was good I was with my family) and one thing I noticed was the variety in everything that place has to offer. There is really something for everyone in that den of sin in the desert. I bet if I tried really hard I could find a place that sold pretzel bowling balls covered in whipped cream and carrots. And I bet there would be at least three other businesses that did the same thing! Competition is good. It keeps entrepreneurs fresh, current businesses on their toes, and people happy. Having only two book retailers doesn’t do ANYONE any good! Once it’s just Amazon and B&N how long do you think before they start price fixing, create more price wars, and the inevitable “who is going to buy whom”. Actually… I don’t think that last one would happen but you understand my point.

If you follow my FaceBook posts, my Twitter, and my blogs then you know that I’m an advocate for the love of books. I LOVE my authors, their work, and the people who read their work. My joy of books comes from many, many places and I love it when someone buys a book that I recommend. Of course, if you buy a book or an e-book I want you to buy it from my bookstore Russo’s Books, but that wasn’t what this post was about. There are plenty of things you can rejoice about. Free buffalo wings, a muddy Jeep, Toni Braxton in a teddy, the next iPad, a grocery bag full of steamed blue crab with enough Old Bay to make your eyes water. Toni Braxton in boy shorts, watching a James Bond movie with a rootbeer float, sleeping late, and a full body massage. Yes, there are a million and one things to be happy about. The closing of a bookstore should not be one of them.


  1. I'm hardly a Luddite, but I am beginning to think this explosion of technology over the past two decades has a lot to do with the reading decline.

    Sure, much of the technology we all take for granted these days is beneficial. It's been wonderful for business communication, it's been great for personal convenience.

    However, it's becoming the driving influence in our lives and this is not a good thing. It's all about instant gratification and personal entertainment. It's fracturing our ability to immerse ourselves in any kind of material for an extended period of time. It's fracturing society -- FB isn't making us more social, it's making us more anti-social. People not only don't have the stickwithitiveness to read a book cover to cover, they've lost the ability to enjoy a discussion of the book. People can FB, blog and tweet, but that's talking _at_ each other, not with each other.

    The publishing industry will eventually adapt to technological advances but you're right -- none of that matters if people have lost the ability to enjoy reading.

  2. I think it's reality television. God help us all.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post Jason. As newbie author with abysmal sales I hate to think that 1/3 of the outlets that might have sold my books will be gone.

  3. I love this blog Jason and even if you don't know me, I am a fellow bookworm as Cheryl, and I myself do not want Borders to close for the very reasons you have stated. There just isn't so many people out there reading books anymore. Technology has surely brainwashed us all. Kids aren't reading because of their ps3 or xbox's and their parents just to encourage these kids to just read at least one hour at night. My parents did that and look what it has turned me into....a total bookworm that they can't even stand sometimes. Then you got adults that are always saying what are books? eff reading, or reading is for nerds. And all they wanna do is party, drink etc. Especially these thugged out wannabe kids. This is what our society needs MORE READING and if Borders closes that just means another door being closed for no one to have access to books. Bookstores shouldn't be in competition about whose better then who, if anything they should be helping each other out. If one bookstore doesn't have a book, you can send them to another bookstore and they probably have it. etc.
    I know myself I have cards to both Barnes and Noble and Borders, I also have a Nook Color but that doesn't stop me from buying my books either because I will always love the feel and smell of a book. If anything I wanted a nook because it takes a tremendous weight off my back when I have my school book in my back pack.

  4. Nice to meet you ThornedBeauty and thank you for your comments on my blogs. I'm always excited to meet fellow book lovers. Are you on FaceBook as well? I don't think people will know fully the impact of having a Borders close until they NEED to get a book! Then they'll feel the pain. And you know what...? I won't feel sorry for them! They had a chance to keep their bookstore open and the failed miserably! I work at an indie bookstore and I can see how stupid this is.