RIP: Borders Books

RIP: Borders Books

Summary: I don't know about you, but I have lots of great memories of the times I spent in Borders.


Wow, we've kind of known this was coming, but it's still sad to see one of the great bookstore chains shut its doors forever. It's even sadder for the 11,000 employees about to lose their jobs.

See also: Why Amazon is winning online retail and should fold on this silly sales tax fight

I don't know about you, but I have lots of great memories of the times I spent in Borders, especially in the coffee shop, meeting people, dating people, participating in local store events, even giving talks to other writers.

Borders, like the big Barnes & Noble stores, was notable in the 1990s for, essentially, putting many of the smaller boutique, mom and pop bookstores out of business. I was complicit in this behavior, for as soon as a Borders and Barnes & Noble came into the Princeton area (where I was living at the time), they became my regular haunts. Borders and Barnes & Noble had more books, more magazines, more media, and -- to me, most important -- they had coffee.

I can't count the number of articles I wrote on my Palm handheld and portable keyboard in the local Borders, or the number of happy Saturdays spent browsing among the stacks. I never seemed to be able to get out of there for less than $80, for there was always something delightful or interesting I just had to read.

Back then, in Princeton, the Borders was right next to another future dinosaur corpse: CompUSA. On many of those Saturdays, I'd drive down, wander through the CompUSA, happily complaining about whatever annoyed me about CompUSA on that day, and then having a pleasant caffeinated beverage right next door at the Borders. Sadly, both stores are now closed -- and even more sad, the buddy I'd often meet down there has also long since passed away. Good times. Good times, indeed.

But the Internet has eclipsed all that. As I discussed yesterday, I now rely on the convenience of Amazon Prime. I've traded in most of my printed editions for digital Kindle books, and the days of the the great community bookstores are clearly behind us.

Borders, of course, is not without blame. They tried to keep up, after denying the power of the Internet for so long. But, like today's newspapers, they were so tied to old business models that those models eventually pulled them underwater.

So, for all those great times, I thank Borders. But, ultimately, Borders RIP.

See also:

Topics: Amazon, E-Commerce, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Tablets, IT Employment


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • I missed them too,

    a lot!
    and like you I was complicit to their demise.
    Linux Geek
  • RE: RIP: Borders Books

    About two years I walked into a Borders and saw a book that I wanted. A quick comparison on the mobile device showed it was twice as expensive as Amazon and so I asked the manager for a discount (not half mind you - just something to make it more reasonable) and the manager gave me some attitude and said there was no discounts. At that time, I predicted that Borders would soon be out of business if they didn't soon change their business model, and it has come to pass. I weep not for it's demise but I do feel sorry for the non-management staffers.
    • Non-management Staffers Like My Friend

      I have a friend who has worked in the retail book trade since leaving college in 1972. He was with Borders for 13 years. When they announced their bankrupcy, they told their employees that they would get severence pay based on years of service. In the end, they lied about that. Their employees just got the shaft.
      sissy sue
    • RE: RIP: Borders Books

      so true.. this place has always had the highest prices and would push you to join their club
  • mixed feelings here

    Mainly I remember my favorite bookstores that B&N and Borders put under. It'll be interesting to see how this evolves. Are we in for a resurgence of boutique internet cafes? People gotta have coffee ;)
    • RE: RIP: Borders Books

      @oncall - yep, a Botique coffee shop and for every $10 spent you get to download a new chapter in a book that you wanted to read!
  • Agreed

    The smell - I love the smell of bookstores and spent many an hour perusing the stacks at Borders and B&N (and remember Walden Books?). But I too am a Kindle owner and rarely buy a book-book these days. All digital now. I rarely visit B&N anymore either. I get everything at Amazon. Bye, bye bookstores. Oh and BTW - someone just opened a small Internet Cafe where I live - can you believe it? Never see anyone in there. I haven't the heart to tell them that is so last century.
    • RE: RIP: Borders Books

      @jpr75_z Do you take your kindle to read in the bathroom.
      • RE: RIP: Borders Books

        Yes...... ;)
      • RE: RIP: Borders Books


        Doesn't everyone who has one?
  • When the grid goes down.

    Ah, nothing beats a great library! And I've never had a friend as faithful as a good book. Taking it from its shelf, feeling it's warmth--no book has ever been a cold object--noticing another on the next shelf. Holding your place with your thumb, flipping the pages back and forth. Jumping to the end of the chapter, reading the final page first.

    I do, however, prefer a shower to a bath, and entertain myself while bathing by singing in a strong baritone.

    The big stores deserve what they got. And we will too when the grid goes down, which doesn't appear to be all that far in the future.
    • RE: RIP: Borders Books

      In my area (West Los Angeles) most of the libraries are now on-line with very very few still physically open :(
    • RE: RIP: Borders Books


      Uh, you realize that the library system, and understand, I'm a fan of libraries in the U.S., is a hugely energy intensive exercise that's extremely dependent upon infrastructure and effective government? You realize that when the "grid" goes down, you library is gone? Tell me you get it.
      • RE: RIP: Borders Books


        Honestly, I like the thought of physical and digital media peacefully coexisting. I love my gadgets and tech just like everyone else, but I think that the hybrid model works best not just with media but with the cloud. I just don't like the idea that all my stuff is dependent on someone else's cloud. If something does wrong with that cloud then I can't access my stuff? I like the idea where I can access my content on a provider's servers on a service like Amazon or Steam, but also that I have a hard copy or personal backup available in a safe place in the event that I can't access that cloud.
        Those who hunt Trolls
    • RE: RIP: Borders Books

      I couldn't agree about physical books more, I'm a huge tech junkie but I still by far prefer a real book. We have a great used bookstore where I live, just up the street from our Borders. I would love to see them take over some of the void created when Borders closes (i.e. coffee, new books, reading areas).
  • Gewirtz offered an alternative business model in his post

    For him, the attraction of the big bookstore was to get coffee, and its convenience as social meeting place, and really, not to get the expensive books. If it's hard to find a seat at the big box bookstore, then DUH, add more seats, & expand this service!

    * - Why not expand & improve the coffee/refreshment/food services at the bookstore -- the social gathering place usefulness of a big bookstore can be leveraged. This will make a great deal of sense at stand-alone box stores in a busy road where nowhere else exists for hanging out and reading in a suburb (but not so much at a mall where other social gathering options exist).

    * - trying to sell expensive books that can be had much cheaper online is too hard; the price differential is too big. (Another duh.) Sell cheaper books & magazines. Sell food & drink.

    * - Alternatively, partner with Amazon, or use your own reader device to _conveniently_ sell cheaper electronic versions of these books/magazines for download right at the store. (Instant gratification purchase) The customer can then peruse the physical copy, and buy the cheaper electronic version.

    Frankly, it's a good idea to leverage these big bookstores as a social gathering spot (for dates, reading, hanging-out, meeting). It can offer more (comfortable) seats, than other places. And it's a needed & good alternative to coffee-only places, a shopping mall, or a bar!
    • Missing

      True but not the whole picture. Near me, both B&N and Borders have decent seating, coffee, snacks, etc...
      That said, it was always hard to get a seat in B&N but not at Borders. It really came down to the B&N discount account model that Borders was way to slow in adopting. By the time the management admitted the error, it was far too late.
      RIP Borders. Another casualty of corporate inflexibility.
      • RE: RIP: Borders Books

        @rhonin They did forgot their roots. Their start in A squared was selling used textbooks and uncutting the prices for new books at the local business.
  • Memories, David, oh the memories!

    CompUSA and Borders next to each other .. Oh yes. I had that, too. (Although in 58 years of life, I have never tasted coffee. I get my caffeine in Coca Cola.)

    But doesn't this sad tale also dovetail into an episode from the original ST where Kirk is being courts marshaled and his lawyer was a great proponent and lover of old printed books.

    Who knew that when we watched that '60s TV episode that we might live to see the age of printed books end?
  • RE: RIP: Borders Books

    My favorite thing @ Borders was in Carmel, IN. On Friday/Saturday nites, right next to coffee shop & magazine racks, a guest jazz artist/band/group or classical or even world music of some sort...would come in and entertain for an hour or so. I luvd drinking coffee, reading a magazine, and listening 2 some great jazz...and some of the area's finest performed there. I know that has been a while, more than 10 years... but I've often thought how much I missed those times.
    Kevin Robinson