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Ghosts of Borders Past Photo Essay

The last of the Borders bookstores closed over the weekend, ending an era for booklovers. Rachel, of Booksellers Without Borders, offers a glimpse into her happy days working at Borders. Our final elegy to a retail icon whose warm, friendly stores made so many of us feel at home.

 

“Hi! My name is Rachel, and I’m a recovering Borders bookseller.”

I’ve been using that line for the past few months, ever since my home store, Borders #517 (Lincoln Village) on the north side of Chicago, closed last April. It feels even more appropriate now, after closing my second store last Friday: Borders 405, also in Chicago, on State Street downtown. Even after working that first brutal two-month liquidation, watching my beloved home store get torn to shreds, and finally losing my job—when I was asked to come back and do it all over again, I said yes. I couldn’t help myself. I went on another six-week Borders binge. My last. This time, for real.

If you have ever walked into a bookstore during business hours and felt that it was an oasis of calm in the middle of a chaotic world, imagine being there when it is closed. I spent several years pulling myself out of bed before dawn in order to be at Borders by 6am. I am not a morning person, not at all, but four hours of uninterrupted shelving time before we opened each day was too enticing. There was something cathartic about spending those quiet hours in the stacks, putting my sections in order, and making the books look pretty. I would slip off my shoes, tie up my hair, and get down to the very serious business of section maintenance. (Note: I do not recommend customers ever walk around a retail location without shoes.)

Being a bookseller gave me an appreciation not just for the content of books, but for their physical bodies. I like that they have heft, weight, and corners that can inflict real damage when they fall on your head. I can look at the space on a shelf, table, or display and tell you how many copies will fit there, in multiple configurations. Filling in the new mass-market table was my favorite Tuesday morning activity—a three-dimensional puzzle, a biblio Rubik’s cube—taking into account release date, quantity, color, and popularity.

Ghosts of Borders Past Photo Essay

More than the books themselves, though, were the opportunities to find them good homes. I helped teachers plan their classroom libraries and students choose books for term papers. A 10-year-old boy asked me for reading recommendations—he had just finished Freakonomics, and wanted to know what other interesting non-fiction books we had. As a blizzard was rolling in, about to dump two feet of snow on us, a man walked into our store and simply said, “Tell me what to read for the next few days.” You can’t get that kind of interaction when you order books online. You just can’t.

Once, I caught myself looking around for my boss after I realized I had been talking to a customer about trends in Young Adult fiction for about 15 minutes. Then I realized that showing her all my favorite YA titles was actually part of my job description, and I wasn’t going to get fired over it. I left work that day feeling very lucky.

Borders was my home for five years, and Borders booksellers are my family. I am heartbroken to have lost the stores, the bookselling teams, and the customers as a part of my daily life. We were a ragtag bunch, heavy on the art and liberal-arts degrees, but light on pretentiousness. We shared our reading lives and our real lives indiscriminately. Most of us never planned to stay for very long, but found it hard to leave. I’m glad I saw it through to the end, but I hope never to be faced with such a depressing task as closing down a bookstore again. If you want to see what I mean, check out the photo essay, The Ghosts of Borders Past.

Borders, we already miss you.

So long, and thanks for all the books.

Rachel
Founder,
Booksellers Without Borders  (We are the Remaindered)
@BksellerExpats on Twitter
Book reviews, author interviews, and a reading
community from former Borders booksellers

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Photo Essay: The Ghosts of Borders Past

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IndieThursdays Get Readers Buying and Tweeting Books!

Booklovers are galvanizing for IndieThursdays! The idea is to buy a book at your local independent bookseller, and then on Thursday share the title and the name of the store in an tweet or via Facebook. The event was the brainchild of children’s author Ryan Jacobs, who wanted to inspire readers to shop locally.  Why not create a twitter event, he thought. After all, one of the most enjoyable aspects of reading is sharing it with others.

In stepped Jenn, the multi-tome juggling reader and reviewer of Jenn’s Bookshelves, who launched IndieThursday on July 28th. Each week, over 200 tweets (and growing!) post to the #indieThursday feed. You can also follow the acount @IndieThursday. If you aren’t on twitter, you can post to the Indie Thursday Facebook page.

Click here to find a local independent bookstore in your area.

E-readers can participate as well—as long as they purchased the download from an Indie. Here’s a list of independent bookstores that sell Google e-books.

Now some of you might argue that the prices aren’t as low as the book chains. But did you know that shopping at a Mom-and-Pop benefits your whole town? If you spend $100 at a local store, $68 of that stays in your community contrasted with only $43 that remains when you purchase at a national chain.

For today’s BBAW focus on readers, I’d like to shout out to Jenn’s Bookshelves for creating this fun online event. She has definitely influenced my reading, and shopping, habits for the better.

So let’s go and get some books … and tweet it out to @IndieThursday #IndieThursday or share via IndieThursday on Facebook.

Shop Indie Bookstores

#IndieThursday Website

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Post to #indieThursday hashtag on Twitter

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As a Borders bookseller from 2006 until our store closed in April, I would like to respond to your last post Caveat Emptor: Skip the Borders Fire ‘Sale’.

You quote articles that say the Borders’ liquidation is “not that good of a deal” and that “some of Borders’ prices have even gone up.” These articles fail to take into account how liquidation works. Book prices are set by the publisher and printed on the cover. However, Borders discounts no longer apply. A bestseller may have been up to 40% off while Borders was still in control of the pricing matrix, but under liquidators, books are discounted by category. These prices continue to drop by about 10% each week, so that remaining books are 80-90% off during the final week. Those who choose to shop the Borders liquidation within its first weeks are essentially paying a premium for access to the more popular titles that will not last two months of discounts.

You also argue that shopping Borders sales will not help the employees, but in fact it can help them.  While we never work on commission and do not get a percentage of the store’s sales, employees can get extra hours if a closing store is consistently busy. I was able to pick up extra shifts as our liquidator green-lighted more payroll. Those padded paychecks helped tide me over until unemployment benefits kicked in.

Sadly, a bookstore in liquidation is no longer a place to sit for hours over coffee. The liquidator cannot pay for café perishables to be shipped to a closing store.  Expect seating areas and restrooms also to be closed in most Borders. The change in atmosphere is depressing for customers and staff alike, but a necessary part of the wind-down.

Your final advice, to seek out other local bookstores to support, I agree with wholeheartedly. As John Connolly, one of my favorite authors (who I have been lucky enough to get to know through my work as a bookseller), has said repeatedly, “Buy books locally – or you will not be able to do so for much longer.” Make sure to visit the bricks-and-mortar stores of your choice, whether independent, used, or chain.  I am grateful for booksellers of every stripe in my community. Last week, I attended a signing at an independent store less than two miles from the Borders where I worked. The sales clerk told me, “We never saw you as the enemy. Amazon is the enemy.” While some independents may be glad to lose the competition, most that I have talked with are simply sad to see another book outlet disappear.

If you do shop the Borders liquidation, either now or when the discounts get steeper, please be gentle to any remaining books and employees.  We are all very sorry to see this chapter of our lives ending, but would be glad to have you in our stores one last time.

Sincerely,

Rachel
Founder,
Booksellers Without Borders  (We are the Remaindered)
@BksellerExpats on Twitter
Book reviews, author interviews, and a reading
community from former Borders booksellers

Ghosts of Borders Past: Photo Tribute to Borders

Read Caveat Emptor: Skip the Borders Fire Sale

Read Borders, We Will Miss You

Check out Booksellers Without Borders Blog

Follow Booksellers without Borders on Twitter @BksellerExpats

Like Word Hits on Facebook

Follow @WordHits on Twitter

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Everyone lives by selling something.—Robert Louis Stevenson

Last Friday, Borders bookstores began a giant liquidation sale. Sounds tempting. But booklovers should skip this sale.  First off, it’s not that good of a deal. Despite “going out of business” hype, Time Magazine reports that the “clearance” prices at Borders are not that different than those at other bookstores—some of Border’s prices have even gone up! 

More important, the lengthy liquidation of Borders inventory is forecast to hurt independent stores and other book chains. Even though the discounts aren’t that great, the hype could divert traffic and dollars from nearby bookstores. Imagine if even your newest inventory were being advertised across town at bargain prices.  Oh, and you won’t be able to get your caffeine fix, as Seattle’s Best has closed all of its in-store cafes.

Elm  Street Books, New Canaan, CT

Finally, the proceeds from this liquidation will not help out Borders employees. The money will instead go to the very investors and creditors who at the eleventh hour bet against Borders’s future. These creditors rejected an offer to sell Borders as an ongoing business to the owners of the Book-Of-The-Month-Club. Instead, they opted to sell for a higher price to a liquidation firm. That’s right, they decided Borders and its people were less valuable to them than the stripped assets. They say you vote with your dollar, and I don’t really want to give them one dime—even if that dime bought me a hardcover book, which it probably wouldn’t.

So why not find a new bookstore to love? To find an independent bookstore near you—click here. If there’s no indie nearby, then try out another bookstore chain—at least you will be investing in your local reading community. If you are sad about losing Borders, the best thing you can do is walk into another bricks-and-mortar bookstore and buy a book. It’s great biblio grief therapy.

Read the Rebuttal: A Former Borders’ Employee Says Shop the Sales

Find a Local Independent Bookstore

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A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence
we have that people are still thinking.
–Jerry Seinfeld

Shocked! I guess I’m naïve, but I didn’t realize how bad things had gotten for Borders.  I just assumed someone would come forward to buy or restructure the chain. After all, it was Borders (and Barnes & Noble) who served as the inspiration for the indomitable Fox Books in You’ve Got Mail. Thanks to that movie, most book buyers have long been aware of the difficult rivalry between the big-box chains and the smaller independent stores, many of whom Borders (and Barnes & Noble) have put out of business. To be fair, Borders was also known for going into struggling neighborhoods as a pioneer anchor store, particularly in Chicago.

I do make an effort to shop at my local book store, since I’m lucky enough to have one. But when traveling, it seemed I came across Borders just about everywhere. I have logged a lot of happy hours—and bought a lot of books—in Borders.  The staff were friendly, enthusiastic and … eager to talk books.  Now all those people, some 19, 500 of them starting last February, have lost their jobs. These were booksellers and book lovers … my people.

In addition to 200 bookstores since February, now all 399 Borders across the country will close at the same time?! It’s like when the Death Star hit Alderaan in Star Wars.  I’m in disbelief, mournful, and bitterly sad.

On Twitter, a rush of messages continues to flow to #ThankUBorders from their patrons and the book-reading community. I retweeted one bighearted message from The Booksellers at Laurelwood—an independent bookstore I definitely plan to visit in Memphis:

From @Laurelwoodbooks  #ThankUBorders for helping to make book-buying cool and reaching so many in far-flung communities all over. We love all of our fellow booksellers and are sad to see the end of an era.

Photo Tribute: The Ghosts of Borders’ Past

Post to Twitter #ThankUBorders

Like The Booksellers at Laurelwood Canyon on Facebook

The Booksellers at Laurelwood Canyon Blog

Read A Former Borders Bookseller Says to Shop the Sale

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