Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The Borders Conflict
Most bibliophiles will recognize the name Borders as the franchise that peddles new books at discount prices, which brings up an array of emotions in readers. Movies like The Shop Around The Corner and You've Got Mail are known for villainizing large box stores as evil entities, out to devour small independent shops. While I am a proponent of buying local, I am also a low-wage employee who simply can't always afford to pay $15 for a book that Borders can sell for $4.99. But that's an argument for another day.
The big news is that the downtown Portland flagship Borders is closing. As of January 7th, there will cease to be a downtown Borders. Fortunately, Portland, Oregon is a city of readers in a saturated market. There are many, many other options for affordable reading (and I'm not even mentioning the plethora of well-kept libraries!). And yet, somehow, I feel like Portland is losing something valuable. While this closure will surely mean higher profits for our locally-owned and locally-beloved Powell's, it is also a sign of something much larger happening in the book world. Is it possible that ebooks really are effecting book sales? How long will it be until bookstores are an archaic piece of our history? Regardless of your feelings about franchise book stores, surely we readers can all agree that the closure of a book store is a loss to it's neighborhood.
On the other hand, bad news for the company is great news for me. I stopped in at the closing Borders last night and took great advantage of the 30-40% off closeout sales. I picked over everything in the store. I bought brand new books for $1-5 each. A giant plastic bag of perfectly good books for $55! I was gleeful about my purchases, as I lovingly inspected each book in the comfort of my own home. But this morning brings new light to my book spree. That was $55 given to a failing company. $55 I could have spent on full priced books in an independently owned, local bookstore that needs the revenue to keep it's doors open. Have I just further hindered the stability of my local economy? Did my spending at a closing box store mean that a local bookseller will be that much closer to going out of business?
I can't know how much impact I have on my local economy. I can't foresee what will happen to my neighborhood bookstores. What I can do is commit to, and encourage readers to seek out the independent booksellers in our communities. We need to support the invaluable trade of knowledge by buying books from stores in our neighborhood. The higher cost we might have to pay just doesn't compare to the possibility of books becoming obsolete.