I was saddened this week to read of the total liquidation of all 399 Borders bookstores across the country. I will admit there was a small part of me that was glad to hear the news. I was viewing the liquidation as one less bookselling entity I need to factor in my business plan. But then I started to really think about it.
If Borders, with all of its stores and its immense buying power (and some would add editorial power), vast stock, publisher’s coop funds, prime author appearances, dedicated staff, and great locations can’t make it in 21st-century bookselling, how am I supposed to? The thing that hit me the hardest was the NPR report yesterday about the liquidation. They mentioned two things: the first was there are more than 11,000 people who will be out of a good job by the end of September. And part of the reason Borders failed can be best be summed up by two people, each being quoted on the NPR piece: “I go to Borders to look at the books I want, and then I order them on Amazon.” Ouch, but I’m hearing more and more bookstore owners complain of hearing this in their stores.
Bookselling modes are changing remarkably fast. The challenge for small stores, which might have more nimble finances, is how to win the market in their neighborhood, especially if that is a market that suddenly might find itself without its mega store. Clearly, there’s no magic bullet. I think we, as indies, need to be experts at our store, we need to be flexible and open new sales modes, and lastly, we need to be aware of the vast and talented workforce that will be flooding the market in the next few months and consider hiring them if we have a need.