Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Borders Deathwatch: The Finale

Posted By on Tue, Jul 26, 2011 at 5:54 AM

So Borders is kaput, and the La Vergne distribution center has been notified that 283 people will be losing their jobs. That's a harsh blow for the book-loving community.

You'll hear a lot of folks attribute Borders' death to Amazon, and I think that's true, though not in the simple, "Everyone went to Amazon instead of Borders" way you're hearing people say. In hindsight, Borders sealed its fate way back when it declined to develop its own online bookstore, instead farming their online presence out to Amazon so that Borders could concentrate on expanding its physical presence in expensive real estate. It'd be like Wal-Mart saying, "Oh, hey, Kmart! We're busy building new box stores. Could you guys run our online store?" In retrospect, the moment they conceded the job of selling Borders books to Amazon online, we should have known it was only a matter of time.

But I have to say, after sitting in an Apple store while on vacation, I am feeling like that might be a model for the future of the bookstore. You'd have physical copies of of a select, small number of books, curated either around a genre or all bestsellers or staff recommendations or however; a number of various ebook readers for purchase and for folks to try out. And (this is the crucial part, I think) someone there who can walk you through how to use your eReader or your preferred ebook app and to fix your reader when it breaks.

I mean, sure, for the kinds of folks who have eReaders now, if it breaks, you can just get a new one. But as they become more ubiquitous for students and people with lower incomes, having some place to go to get them fixed becomes more important. Some enterprising bookstore owners could do worse than to steal some ideas from Apple.

These are weird times, but I'm feeling kind of excited to see what a bookstore looks like in the next few years.

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