Then there were two.
The announcement this week that Borders’ remaining 399 bookstores would move into liquidation has left two national book sellers: Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. There are some regional players such as Books-A-Million, but B&N and Amazon lead the pack.
I’m sorry to see this. Borders was a favorite of mine when I worked at a newspaper on the N.C.-Virginia line in the mid-1990s and would escape from time to time to the chain’s store in Greensboro. I found that its offerings in the areas I cared about — politics, history and biography — easily outstripped the city’s competing B&N location. The store’s vibe (for lack of a more concrete concept) also bested B&N.
That said, investors’ dividends, publishers’ invoices and workers’ salaries are not paid by selection and vibe. And Borders made its share of foolish mistakes along the way, the two most notable being not quickly seeing the import of e-books and contracting out operation of its website to B&N.
The liquidation will move with surprising speed. According to a memo obtained by The New York Times from Borders’ president, Mike Edwards, to the chain’s staff, the process will start as soon as this Friday and will be finished by the end of September.
There might be one small good thing to come out of Borders’ closing for budget-conscious bibliophiles. I twice stopped at the chain’s store in Chapel Hill as it was being closed earlier this year as part of an initial restructuring plan. The discounts offered were significant. On my desk beside me is an all-encompassing guide to Adobe’s Creative Suite 4 software collection that sold for 50 percent off. In my truck and at my house are guides to search engine optimization and a website content-management system that similarly were discounted and a copy of the first in the “Master and Commander” series that was priced, I believe, at 70 percent off.
While it is nice to save money on new books, I’m still heartsick about the cause.
Ross Chandler is Life editor of the Rocky Mount Telegram.