Borders bankruptcy news not shocking, just hits close to home

Borders bankruptcy news not shocking, just hits close to home

News this morning that Borders has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and may be closing up to 200 of its stores is yet another defining moment in publishing and may forever be the true beginning of the end to the entire bookstore experience.

Sure, news of their struggles — as well as the challenges of other publishing entities like newspapers — is nothing new. It’s just that this particular news hits close to home because I’m guilty of something. I’ve been using Borders…and Barnes & Noble for that matter.

I use them to browse. I may buy an occasional cup of coffee or magazine, but my visits usually involve jotting down books that appear interesting to me and going back and buying them on my iPad. I’m horrible, I know, but I wanted to get that off my chest.


I suppose I’m comfortable with the fact that I know I’m not alone. I always see a lot of people in the stores, but I don’t see a lot of long lines at the checkout.

Back in the mid 90s it was a Saturday morning ritual for me to grab a coffee and go hang out and lose myself at the Borders in Birmingham. I would spend hours there just browsing through books and magazines. More often than not, I would actually buy something as I left. That was then. That was before the Internet really took hold and way before the iPad became my one and only physical book.

Borders never caught on to the digital revolution. They watched (and tried to partner with) Amazon as they took over the online bookselling marketplace. When the Kindle was introduced, they waited and waited before they introduced their e-reader alternative. At that point it was obviously too late.

There’s a hard marketing lesson for every business to learn from the Borders story. When you stop innovating and when you stop creating new ways to grow all you’re really doing is dying. It’s particular tough to see a business like Borders go through this. On the surface they looked just fine. Shelves were always stocked. People were milling around the stores. Employees always willing to help you find a particular title. Folks sitting in the cafe poking away at laptops. Music playing. The smell of coffee brewing. It was many people’s happy place — I know it has always been mine. But in reality it was more like a functioning alcoholic than a company that physically looked like it was in ruin.


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