The publishing world is buzzing with the news that Borders is now closing all stores, starting this week. Personally, I was stunned. I figured they would make it through the bankruptcy, consolidate things and regroup. But when they didn't find a buyer, it was over.
Here in the northern burbs of Houston, my local Borders had stayed open after the initial closings and had continued to do well. One reason for this - besides the staff - is that it is a free-standing store, making for easy access and impromptu visits. There's a spacious cafe upstairs, where I've written and hosted literary magazine events with students. To be honest, it always seemed a little too large - definitely some wasted space and a lot spent on music, cd's etc, that just always felt unused, although interesting to browse. But as I say, the store did well. A few years back our B&N moved from its free standing store next to Target to a huge two story property at the mall. While it is accessible from outside the mall proper, there is very little parking near the store itself, most of which gets taken by the waitstaff at PF Changs and Brios by about 4 PM. Unless you're at the mall already, it is doubtful that you would just drop by B&N on a whim as I used to do. In the free standing store, one of my favorite things to do if I'd had a crap day at school was to stop by for about 20 minutes or so. I'd get a coffee or tea and browse. Generally, I'd buy something. No more. Now it is a planned event. And the B&N cafe is about the size of a pencil eraser. Much less fun. I adore the B&N staff. But getting to the store is an endurance contest.
Borders has had a long and wonderful relationship with my publisher, Sourcebooks. Sourcebooks writes about that here. And Borders has been very, very kind to me. Borders supported paperbacks with great zeal, and my Dreaming Anastasia series has been published in trade paperback. Borders jumped on the Dreaming Anastasia wagon from the start and has continued to stock and feature my books long into their life. For a smaller, genre blend paranormal/historical fiction from a medium sized independent house and an author who up until 9/09 was teaching Julius Caesar to the masses, chaperoning the Homecoming dance, and cheering at her son's football games, this is huge. I mean seriously, you have no idea how huge!
Assistant mgr. Cindy Wexler at my local Borders has been a dream as well. She has personally supported my career many times over - inviting me to do signings, writers' workshops, featuring my book on many special displays and tables. This kind of special attention can be rare, but it wasn't rare at Borders. And it helped me build my career.
Lots of talk now about what happens next. Will other bookstores take over some of the properties? Will our beloved indies benefit and grow. (I hope so) Will it be something else we can't anticipate - like some groups of authors banding together to start bookstores? (someone mentioned this, so I figured I'd throw it out there)
I am huge fan (as is Sourcebooks) of getting books to readers in as many platforms as possible. I love my Kindle and read on it most days. But I write for the childrens' market. By and large, my readers don't have e-readers. Kids and teens buy their books by walking into a brick and mortar store, browsing, socializing, talking to the booksellers. Now there is one fewer place where this can be done. The books that might not end up on the one shelf of YA at Target, well, they're not going to be known or read. That word of mouth will be that much less. It is a tragedy and a problem. When I joined with the Roecker sisters for Indie support day, I asked readers to tell me about their favorite bookstore, indie or otherwise. I heard from reader after reader who don't have a single store close to them. Like I say, it's a problem. And I think it's more than just the economy and more than just a shift in how we bring books to readers. The loss of Borders is a problem and a tragedy because it has closed another avenue for reader choice.
Going to ponder this more, I know. Hope you will too.
Let me know what you think.