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Indie booksellers split on Borders bankrupcty

News that Borders would be closing 200 stores as it moved into Chapter 11 bankruptcy spread quickly on Wednesday. Southern California has 11 new stores slated for closure, including ones in Century City, Glendale and Pasadena.

Vroman's, an independent bookstore located less than a mile away from Borders in Pasadena, was swift to respond. An e-mail to customers was sent out Wednesday afternoon, enticing them to trade in their loyalty to Borders for Vroman's.

In light of the announcement that over 200 Borders locations are closing nationwide, including the Glendale Borders and the Pasadena location, Vroman’s is offering a special deal to Borders Rewards Club Members. The first 200 Borders customers who turn in their Borders Member Awards card receive a $20 Vroman’s Gift Card. By turning in their card to any Vroman’s cashier, the customer will give be given the opportunity to sign up for our e-newsletter & the Vroman’s Gives Back program. In return, customers will receive a $20 gift card. This offer is good at all Vroman’s locations.

But across town at Skylight Books in Los Feliz, the discussion was very different. On the bookstore's blog, in a post that also appeared on Facebook, staffer Emily Pullen wrote:

We are indie to the bone, for sure, but many of our employees started off working in the chains. Several phenom booksellers from other indies (Bookavore! jennIRL! I'm looking at you!) have shared their very heartfelt and personal connections to Borders....

Gayle Shanks, former president of the American Booksellers Association, suggested that perhaps the biggest loss will be the diversity of marketplace  that is crucial not only for the vitality of the book business, but for our struggling economy as well. Ask an independent bookseller who their biggest competitor is, and rarely will you hear them say another independent bookstore. Fifteen years ago, he or she would have probably answered Borders or Barnes & Noble. But recently, things seem to have shifted again, and many booksellers will say that our struggles as physical independent bookstores are not so terribly different from the struggles of physical chain bookstores, and we're all really competing against massive online retailers who have more warehouses and widgets than bookshelves or bodies....

Of course I hope that some of the stranded customers will gravitate towards Skylight Books for their book needs. But there ain't no joy in a bookstore closing. Ever.

On Saturday, all closing Borders bookstores begin holding clearance sales, with almost all the stock marked down 20%-40%.


Borders files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

What's going on with Borders?

Westwood's Borders takes a bow

Borders moves toward financing, but doesn't rule out bankruptcy

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A closed Borders bookstore in Chicago this month. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (3)

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After living in SF for 10 years, it took some time to understand the lay of the land in LA but, alas, there are a lot of great bookstores here: Arcana, Hennessey & Ingalls, Family, Vromans, Alias, Sam: Johnson's, Angel City, Skylight, Stories, and countless others that I have yet to find. Borders will not be missed.

I am an independent bookstore owner in Los Angeles. I feel that the demise of Boarders is representative of the on-going problem of retail giants selling on-line and allowing their local stores to suffer from losing the edge needed in sales that are given to on-line shoppers. The Boarders in Glendale was grand when it first opened, but for years it had become diminished. So, the loss is not great, as change was needed. There is ample evidence that more people reading than ever before and they are looking for instant information more than ever. From one perspective there may be more book retailers available to the buyer than ever if you consider the how many books are offered on-line from around the world. The internet has vastly changed bookselling of all types. There are still people looking for many books they cannot find. I myself have just written a book that is based largely on the value of examining the book itself, as an archeological object, to determine the history of what happened to a volume. You cannot do that with an electronic book. There are advantages to on-line data and some disadvantages. For the researcher they will want to have as many resources available to them as are necessary to fulfill their needs for their work, be it electronic books, internet data retrieval or traditional printed paper/books. If the public wants bookstores around they will have to do regular business with them. The truth of it is that retail rents are so high that few bookstores, or any other retail store, can sustain such high rates. The price of doing business in a brick and mortar store is high indeed. One of the great strengths of the independent retailer is their knowledge of their trade. That is unique to the booktrade. There is so much gained from doing business locally and with someone you support. The loss of a store is important, but there are many on-going book businesses that are going on strong. Jeff Weber

I think Emily Pullen sees the writing on the wall for all brick and mortar stores selling new books. What can you get at Skylight for your iPad or Kindle?


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