Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Borders is bankrupt

The bookseller chain Borders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today.

This is not unexpected-- they've been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy for quite a while now-- but still it's a blow to the small fraction of the public that actually buys books.

Chapter 11 is not quite the same as death; their survival plan is to close 30% of their stores.

Nobody knows what the future of real, brick and shelves bookstores is. I remember Borders back when there were only two of them (one in Ann Arbor, one in East Lansing); back when enormous book superstores were a novel idea. I have to say I love bookstores; I have mixed feelings about Borders and their competitor Barnes&Noble-- I like the way they turned bookstores into destinations, how they were places you could go to be surrounded by more books than you could read in a lifetime; but I've been a bit disconcerted by the way they turned bookselling impersonal, with each neighborhood bookstore not even choosing their own books, but running according to the master plan from a distant headquarters. And the way they very deliberately strangled the independents. (Anybody still remember Booksellers?)

(Financial times suggests that this, their turning into impersonal big-box stores, was exactly their problem.)

Still, problems with one of the chain bookstores will not mean a return to the (mostly imaginary) days of small intimate bookstores; it is a oracle sign of the severe problems faced by all bookstores, and when the world has fewer bookstores, it is, in a small way, a less wonderful place.

(Independent bookstores do still survive; check them out here.)

--I wonder what this will do to the Deep Cleveland Poetry Hour, a long-running reading series that happens every second Friday at the Borders in Strongsville (I suppose that may depend on whether the Strongsville store is one of the 194 stores that are being closed.)


Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Strongsville is safe. Someone posted this on Twitter:

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

Ah, that's good! Thanks for the link.

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

Read Laurie Mann's long essay on the Borders bankruptcy, her view as an insider and a booklover.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau