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Posted at 8:56 AM ET, 02/16/2011

Borders bookstores: the final chapter?

By Melissa Bell
borders
Borders Group, a chain of 674 bookstores, including this one in Glen Mills, Pa., filed for bankruptcy. It will close 30 percent of its stores. (Henny Ray Abrams/AP)

After rumblings in the news for some time, Borders made it official: The bookstore is bankrupt. Wednesday morning the megastore filed for Chapter 11 ("The worst chapter for book publishing?" one Twitter user asked).

The news has bibliophiles back on what's quickly becoming their favorite subject: The death of reading is nigh.

Which is ironic. Because just over a decade ago, the rise of Borders was seen as one of the original "death of reading." How quickly we forget.

Before Borders lost its way, fumbling with mismanagement and misinterpreting the importance of the Internet, readers everywhere cried foul at the megastore gobbling up Independent bookstores all around them. The Goliath destroying David story became such a part of pop culture it even got the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks movie treatment in "You've Got Mail."

"We are going to seduce them," Hanks's character says as he plans a megastore near Ryan's. "We're going to seduce them with our square footage, and our discounts, and our deep armchairs, and our cappuccino."

A friend from outside the city limits says that while city readers can sip their cappuccinos at Indie stores and scoff at the end of Borders, there are some places in the country where Borders is the only option out there for a book lover. Others worry about the jobs of all the employees at the 200 bookstores set to close.

However you feel about the store, let us know by writing a six-word novel on the subject.

JCBKam writes, "They came. They sold. They floundered."

How do you feel about the shrinking Borders?

The chain has not yet announced which of its 674 stores will be shut down, though the Wall Street Journal has linked to an exhibit in the filing, which lists 200 stores that may be the 200 set to close.

Find out if a store near you is closing:

View Borders closings in a full screen map

If you have any information on which stores are closing, let us know here.

By Melissa Bell  | February 16, 2011; 8:56 AM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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Comments

I didn't see an answer that reflected how I felt. I'm okay with it because people are just buying more online now. I work near a Borders and go there all of the time. I find it relaxing. Bookstores are not going the way of the dinosaur any time soon. We just need fewer, that's all. Bookstore lovers just need to move in a little closer, condense a little.

Posted by: forgetthis | February 16, 2011 10:32 AM | Report abuse

I agree, forgetthis. There wasn't an appropriate answer for me either.

I don't think Kindles etc will kill off bookstores. It's just diversification. Yes, I have been upset when independent stores died partly due to the Borders factor.

As for Borders' problems, I think the answer lies in the mismanagement mentioned above.

Posted by: kt76 | February 16, 2011 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Borders can make a run of it if, after they close however many stores they need to close, they:

1. Hire a CEO and other upper management who know what the hell they are doing. They recently hired a grocery store exec as their CEO, and proceeded to sell books like they would sell bread, produce, and detergent.

2. Reinstitute more autonomy at their stores so that the individual store managers can assess the local wants and needs and taylor their store to them.

Posted by: daveb59 | February 16, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Not good news. We stop at the Rockville Pike/Kensington Borders everytime we're in the vicinity and always come out with something. It's always crowded, long lines. Why are they proposing to close this branch? With the closure of the 2 remaining DC stores--1801 K and Friendship Hts--what will be left for DC buyers? I don't find Barnes and Nobles search as useful as Borders 'Find it in a store.'

Posted by: commonsense101 | February 16, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I didn't often go to Borders because there wasn't one near me, but I really loved being able to order a book online and pick it up in the store. Wish B&N near me would do that. The instore lookup terminals were nice too.

Posted by: csdiego | February 16, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I don't much care about Borders but I have a real problem with people who complain about the loss of small local book stores. Their premise is that local book stores will feature titles that large chains won't touch. But try Amazon. Anyone can sell a book there, even authors who self-publish, or who sell essays via Amazon's (non-Kindle) electronic downloads.

Posted by: blasmaic | February 16, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

commonsense101, please tell me that the K Street store is not closing. You can't possibly be saying that. That store is always well populated. Oh well, as long as they close AFTER this July, that's fine with me. Where else will I go on my lunch break? (And I do think Barnes & Noble is nicer, but unfortunately there's none near me.)

Posted by: forgetthis | February 16, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I never really liked Borders. It felt sterile, cookie-cutter, formulaic. They were all about NYT best-sellers, Oprah's list, and self help books. They were the Olive Garden or Red Lobster of books; you won't necessarily die, but you won't trhive either. My first few times that I visited 20 years ago were frustrating. They never had what I was looking for and they didn't offer the deals that B & N offered. At the time, there also used to still be Crown Books (remember, "books cost too much, ...") where you could find good prices on best sellers, remainders, and a newstand. If I'm stuck someplace like "shopping mall land" a Borders is better than nothing, but given a choice I'd go elsewhere. I won't miss Borders, because I never really liked them, but I'm sure some people might miss them.

Posted by: blankspace | February 16, 2011 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Borders' stores will be easier to replace than the small independent bookstores they put out of business.

Posted by: BPupp | February 16, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I was never too enthused about big bookstores like Borders. When I first moved to Washington, DC, there were lots of specialty bookstores that catered to specific tastes and many others that provided superlative service. My favorites were Savile's and Book Nook in Georgetown, the Trover Shop on Capitol Hill, and Victor Kamkin's (once in Adams-Morgan, then forced to move to Rockville). Where are they now? They are all gone, destroyed by the big bookstores.

Now, it is time to turn the page again. Just as they did to their smaller kin, Borders and other big bookstores are being progressively destroyed by online retailers like Amazon.com, which is where I have bought most of my books for the past decade. The reason? From the convenience of my computer, I can find almost any book I want. I have grown spoiled, because no bookstore can contain more than a small fraction of the books that are out there in the literary universe; and while one can go to a bookstore to order books online, it is more convenient to do it from home and cut out the middleman.

This trend will become even more pronounced when Google really gets going with its book scanning project. I find that, increasingly, I am going first to Google to see if the book that I want is there, before going to Amazon to buy it. Borders and the other big book stores are increasingly being left in the dust.

If I had my druthers, I would wish for the return of small bookstores, but economic realities dictate otherwise. In the present day, if you're not reading books on a screen or ordering them online, you're falling behind.

Posted by: shoeone | February 16, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

@ Forgetthis: I'm afraid the 1801 K, the across the street from Mazza as well as the White Flint stores were listed on the link to the bankruptcy filing PDF. Can we let Borders know we don't want those closed?

Posted by: commonsense101 | February 16, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

For those questioning the DC closures, and how busy they are, it has a lot to do with profitability not so much revenue. If the store in DC costs $1M / year to run based on rent, salaries etc. and make $900k they are loosing money. If a store in say Leesburg only costs $700k / year and makes the same $900k after fixed costs (inventory etc) then they are profitable with the same sales. DC is a tremendously expensive place to operate. Between the pay scale, land prices, utility costs, taxes etc. it all ads up.

Posted by: wleeper | February 16, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Fewer read. Borders bled. Workers shed.

Posted by: Phyllis10 | February 16, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

After this, how long before White Flint Mall closes down? The decline in that place over the past ten years is almost horrifying.

Posted by: csdiego | February 17, 2011 9:42 PM | Report abuse

I really like Borders. There people are knowledgable and nice. They have a much better selection of books than say B&N - better as in deeper and broader selection - many, many more hard to find titles.

What happened? amazon, abebooks, ebay - besides BAM and B&N - too much competition. Reading is NOT dying, what is dying is high-priced books. We are facing the walmartification of yet another industry. You get what you pay for, and if you believe in the best price then you get the worst stuff. I do wish that textbooks would suffer this fate - if they started publishing them on tissue paper they would have more value when the next edition arrives.

Posted by: LeeA3 | February 20, 2011 10:18 PM | Report abuse

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