Monday, August 15, 2011

Goodbye Borders

Hello readers! I apologize for my absence. Life gets in the way. My parents came into town last weekend, work picked up this week, and this weekend I helped on my friend's film shoot. I stalled on my WIP, but I am pushing myself back on the wagon!

The Borders next to my office is in the middle of its goodbye firesale. I've taken to swinging by once a week on my lunch break to check out what the discounts are. You can read a million blog posts about what Borders closing means to publishing. I will spare you another one.  I love wandering through bookstores. I love the smell of new books. I find the whole setting inspiring. Skimming the titles on the shelves and their first pages always made me want to write or create reading lists in my head. Bookstores were a fun place to hang out when I was younger, to meet up friends or just hang out. I wonder where kids today hang out. There are no record stores, no video stores, and now very few bookstores. Do they hang out at Starbucks? I feel bad for kids today.

I also feel bad for Borders. The store has been insanely busy every since it began liquidating. Where were these people before? But each time I've walked through the store these past few weeks, the same sad thought runs through my head: I understand why they are going out of business. I peruse the front covers and first pages as a book lover and writer. But I check out the price sticker on the back like a consumer. Books are expensive. When did that happen?

It's hard to justify paying $25 for a book, especially in a recession. Most people only read a book once, then either pass it along or add it to their bookshelf. People who buy DVD's will watch that movie several times, and as the market shrunk, the price of DVD's came down drastically. I feel like the opposite happened with books. One of my friends said she'll only buy a book if it will impress people who peruse her bookcase. A lot of my cash-strapped friends and I just rent from the library. I love borrowing books from my friends and vice versa. Someone told me she goes to goodwill to buy books for a dollar because they have a decent selection. Every time I go into Borders, the prices have dropped, and I keep telling myself that I will buy a book. But it never happens. I still can't justify $10-15 for a paperback. I ask myself if I need to buy it, or if I can just get it from a library or friend. I can justify paying $10 to see a movie because I enjoy the moviegoing experience on top of the actual movie. It's an evening activity. Consumers are better bargain hunters today. Our dollar has less value but has to go further. Stores like Wal-Mart and Target - and the internet! - have trained us to search out low prices. As I walked through the aisles at Borders, I got the feeling that they were still operating like it's 1999. I know there are financial reasons behind book prices - bookstores get a cut, publishers get a cut, the author gets whatever is left over. Publishers can't charge a dollar for books. I just find it strange that in these times when bookstores and publishing and families across America are hurting, Borders prices have remained exactly the same, which make them seem steeper than a decade ago. In their music section, I saw CD's priced at $20 and laughed to myself. Do you think that books seem too expensive today?

Every time I look at the shelves at Borders or any bookstore, I always think of how much hard work went into each book. Pick any random novel in the fiction section, and that author and editor works for years to get it perfect. It's a shame that our society does not value art like it used to; now cost is paramount in the consumer's mind. It's sad, but that's the world we live in, and we just have to deal with it. Musicians today know they aren't going to make money off their albums. They've found other ways to generate income: tours, merchandise, endorsements, TV shows, clothing lines, perfumes.
 What do you think the corresponding revenue streams will be for authors in the future?


  1. You are right on the money, sorry for the pun...totally unintended. But that's what it comes down to. Records went to 8-tracks, 8-tracks to cassettes and cassettes to CDs. When Napster made getting music as easy as the click of a button and people started file sharing, CDs took a beating and musicians had to truly promote on a bigger scale and indie musicians were finding it better and more profitable to produce their own music.

    That same evolution - or revolution - is occuring with publishing. Not even 10 years ago, indie writers were rapscallions, considered unworthy, for whatever reasons. But with the emergence of Kindle and other e-readers, indie writers are becoming more accepted. Writers are pumping out $2.99 e-books and making a decent living with the right promotion, word of mouth and most importantly, a pretty good story. Though I'm not sure paper books will become extinct (isn't there some kind of movie or book about that happening?) e-books are certainly on the rise. Many writers are hoping to catch the wave before it crests so they can surf that baby for all it's worth.

  2. Shelves of books make me think of a writer's dedication and hard work as well. It's sad we'll see less of them.

  3. I hear you about Borders--I especially miss the coffee shop the one near me had. :( I love nothing more than seeing a rows and rows of bookshelves. And nothing smells better than the inside of a bookstore--or is that just me?

  4. It's sad that Borders in closing. I went to one a couple of weeks ago, and it was an absolute madhouse!

    Also, I’m a new follower— wonderful blog! Stop by my blog and follow me too? :)

  5. @Kristine - I love the smell of books! It ranks just above new car smell and gasoline for my favorite non-food smells.

    @Rachel - Thanks for the follow! And to paraphrase Toy Story, you've got a follower in me :)

    @ER - It's sad we'll see less shelves, and it frustrates me when bookstores turn out the covers of some books. 4 or 5 other books could've sat there!