Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thank You Borders

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.


Heather said...

Hi Joy! Glad to have met you again at the Tera Lynn Childs a couple of weeks ago!

Your blog this morning says everything I've been thinking - including your comments on the B&N at the mall. I dislike going there because of the parking and how cramped it feels. Kristin and I went in yesterday only to find that as of Friday, they are done. This Friday! It seems so fast! I'm glad that I got to go one more time.

A lot of bloggers are predicting the rise of the indie book store after this. I sure hope they are right. Unless I have missed it, there really isn't one in the Woodlands / Spring area that I've seen. We love going to Blue Willow, but for everyday browsing, it's a bit far. One can only hope we see one soon.

Thanks for your beautiful words today and every day!

Kristin Rae said...

Lovely post. I'm also sad our local Borders has to close its doors so soon. And I've definitely seen how supportive they are of your books--that's actually how I heard about you last year! Dreaming Anastasia was on a shelf downstairs with a local author tag, I flipped through it, SOLD.
I dreamed of doing my own book signing there one day (if I get published that is), but now it won't happen. Who knows what the bookstore world will look like by then.
Here's hoping more independents pop up (I think Blue Willow needs to branch out our way!).

Carol Riggs said...

Saw your linky from Twitter and had to come by to mourn Borders with you. I love hard-copy books and was very sad to see Borders' announcement. Yes indeed--where ARE kids/teens/aduls going to buy their books? It's just not the same browsing the books on Amazon...

Joy Preble said...

Thanks for the wonderful comments! I really have been thinking about this all day, and about how important bookstores in general are for society. A forum for literacy, ideas, philosophy, conversation... and thus a major part of democracy. Obviously I love my on-line forums for all these things - but when we all hang out at a book event at Blue Willow or wherever - and cozy into those chairs and wait together to see an author we adore or even who we might not know, it's important interaction. I think I'll be writing about this tomorrow or Friday, actually.

Cindy said...

Thanks so much for your kind words - I have been so happy to promote your books, and those of other authors too. The loss of our north Houston suburban Borders is a breaking apart of a family for me - a stopping of something I have done on a daily basis for longer now than I ever did any other thing thing before. I have to think it is a start of something to though, for me, and the people I've shared it with. We are around until September, but tomorrow is our last day as we were - a community spot for learning, socializing, discovery. Friday morning at 9 am we become a place that only exists to move units, quick, discounted and finally. It will be sad . . .
- Cindy Wexler