Blue About Borders

While in our historic downtown for a meeting on this beautiful, sunny Valentine’s Day, I stopped into my neighbor’s chocolate shop to pick up a few strawberries dipped in chocolate for tonight’s dessert. Love is in the air on this happy day, yet I’m also feeling a bit blue.

This morning’s book industry news led with the story about the likelihood that Borders will soon file for bankruptcy. Being from the Ann Arbor area, I remember Borders when it was still indie, and even trained with them when I joined Davis-Kidd Booksellers as the General Manager of the Nashville store. In the 1980s, they operated a division called Book Inventory Systems that serviced several quality large independent booksellers. Their buyers were the best … true book people who loved books, enjoyed the art of bookselling, and understood their communities. Then they were bought out by Kmart and everything began to change.

Today, I’m not only mourning the unfolding of the Borders story, I’m concerned about the communities that will lose their only bookstore. Some think that it doesn’t much matter since we’ll all be e-reading anyway. But the research shows otherwise, as those who do read e-books read books in print as well. And you never hear people talk about how much they enjoy browsing and ‘hanging out’ at an online bookstore.

The mega-store model may prove to be unsustainable, but most were generating millions of dollars in book sales annually. Alternatively, some smaller, more efficient booksellers have been able make a decent living working in a business they love and passionately embrace.

It’s a sad unfolding of events for long-term Borders staff and for the customers who loved being in their stores once upon a time. A door might close, but a window of opportunity opens. For those who still hold on to a life-long dream of owning a bookstore and are willing to take some risks in the face of uncertainty, the timing is right for just such an opportunity.

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