Thursday, July 21, 2011

So Long, Borders

Slate says it wasn't the Internet that killed Borders. But it is deader than a doornail, no matter what did it in.

Borders was the first bigbox chain bookstore to open near me. I loved it. I was totally blown away by all the books. And the big, cushy chairs. Back in those days, Borders would bring in entertainment, musical groups on a Friday night, say. Independent bookstores had already become scarce around here, so Borders was filling a need.

What cooled me on Borders was the sameness. The policy of using national buyers and carrying the same thing in every store meant that whether I was in a Borders in Connecticut or Delaware or New York or, later, Vermont, I always saw the same books, presented in the same way. And since Barnes & Noble does the same, and it was opening stores in the same areas Borders was, I'm just talking the same, same, same in every store wherever I was.

When you go into a privately owned, independent bookstore, you can almost feel you know something about the people who run the place, because they have chosen the books on display. They didn't just open a case that was sent to them and put the merchandise on the shelf. What might save Barnes & Noble (assuming it needs saving) is to follow a similar policy. Give up using national or regional buyers so that only a few books get a lot of display space and allow the local store managers to do their own purchasing. Shoppers will always be able to get the bestsellers for less at Amazon, so give them something different in the stores, something that surprises them and that they want right then.

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