What Really Happened at Borders?

Borders - Signs off the Building

I LOVE bookstores as much as I love to read.  There is nothing like browsing through sections that held my interest, seeing what these talented authors had crafted out of a little ink, a few thoughts, and a stack of paper.  We bought a lot of books, almost exclusively from Borders, and their poorer cousin, Walden Books.  Walden’s tended to be located in lower-traffic areas while Border’s was found in the ‘The Big City’.  We lived in the sticks…

And then the Internet emerged, and web browsers were offered, and Google tied it all together.  Suddenly, we did not have to pile in the car to find a book.  Have a credit card?  You could have your book on your doorstep in 36 hours.  What could be better than that?  NO more searching the ‘stacks’, no more waiting for Borders to order the same book that YOU could order.  To be sure, I still counted myself as a browser, when Lynn and I went shopping.  Something like icing on the cake, you met some really wonderful people, doing the same as you.  To sit in the coffee bar, thumbing through a recent best-seller, while you drank rich, Colombian, coffee – nirvana!!  My default process had become, “find an interesting book, write down the details, and order it from Amazon”.  Not good for bricks and mortar!  The last time that I was in Borders was six months ago, while I was researching the cover and interior design for Views from Sandhausen. (How are we writers going to perform that particular type of design research in the future)?

We all saw it coming, modeling on my personal general shift away from ‘big box’ bookstores.  Additionally, we saw that:

  • No bookstore moved fast enough in the eBook Space
  • No bookstore could survive the huge investment in the music business – and the subsequent tanking of that business
  • No bookstore could have a supply chain that was measured in weeks, once you order a book through them, before you get your book
  • No bookstore could survive the economy tanking (Borders should have quickly divested itself of all Walden stores in the 2007 timeframe)
  • No bookstore could survive the deep discounting that has been growing in the retail book market
  • And many other reasons that were not as obvious

I have been holding off on writing this post because I wanted to write it once, to include the real reasons why Borders collapsed, unlike Barnes & Noble, and Books a Million (although I wouldn’t rank either as ‘investment grade’ properties) survive.  Well, I think I have finally unearthed the ‘real believable’ story.

I constantly strive to expand my social presence and I was looking at a site called Quora.  I’m still learning about it, but as fate would have it, I Immediately ran across an article on the subject, written by the former Borders Merchandising Strategy & Analytics Director, Mark Evans.  If there is anyone that should know, it is he.  Here is what Mark said in his piece, “Why is Barnes & Noble performing well as a business while Borders is near (or has even reached) bankruptcy?

Photo Credit: NewsFlux


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