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