Since this blog is entitled Book Diplomacy and most of my books have been bought through Amazon and Borders, I figured it appropriate that I weight in on Borders recent closure and ongoing series of liquidation sales. Realities often goes deeper than one sentence, but Borders basic problem was a failure to adapt to changing market conditions and the reality of the E-Reader revolution. Borders built a recognizable brand over thirty years and a meaningful bookstore experience that will hopefully not be lost to future generations through the resurgence of independent bookstores, but Borders ultimate failure to adapt and change with the times, ultimately led to its’ downfall.
In a thread on the Amazon.com discussion forum, a poster mentioned its’ hard to escape the reality that all of us on this board are responsible for the demise of Borders. This statement has a kernel of truth as Amazon sells books and other merchandise at some of the lowest prices around. It is my view that no bookstore in its’ bricks and mortar incarnation will be able to meaningful compete with Amazon, except among those consumers nostalgic for the bookstore experience. It’s a basic lesson in economics in a particularly anemic economy that if a book at Borders retails for $25 dollars and Amazon has the same book for $15, which is a 40% percent discount, where would you buy the book from? Borders system of discounts was so convoluted that one needed to study advanced mathematics to get any meaningful savings as evidenced by the mind-numbing explanation on Today around last Christmas of combining a $50 dollar gift card with some sort of store 40% off coupon + Borders bucks from the Borders Rewards card or something like to get $60 worth of books for fifty. Yeah I’ll just buy from Amazon and save my bottle of Advil for a rainy day.
Then comes the E-reader, much as I personally detest them, they are the wave of the future and Borders ended up missing the boat and shivering in the water. Barnes and Noble has Nook, Amazon the Kindle, and Borders had Kobo, which I just heard about for the first time last week. Being third to a party of three among big national booksellers is a horrendous blunder. Steadfast adherence to an increasingly inadequate model of large bookstores with bells and whistles and a smaller and smaller selection of books is doomed for failure when your confronting a global behemoth like Amazon who can sell you any book without the ordering process that takes days to get from the shipper to the store. Amazon basically said “Why get out of your house”? We’ll bring whatever you want to your front door, a winning argument for a Midwestern kid with limited mobility. Borders adapted to these changes in the reality of bookselling like an outdated decrepit factory stubbornly adhering to their classic though dated model preferred by the big publishing houses. Bottom line: Although Amazon played a part in Borders demise, Borders is ultimately responsible for its’ own demise.