Borders bookstore lacks bidder, may close remaining stores

“Borders Group Inc., the bankrupt U.S. bookstore operator looking to reorganize, has so far failed to find a bidder for the entire chain, according to four people familiar with the matter,” Lauren Coleman-Lochner, Jeffrey McCracken and Tiffany Kary report for Bloomberg. “Barnes & Noble Inc., Borders’s larger rival, offered to buy about 10 stores, said two of the people, who declined to be identified because the process isn’t public. Other parties also bid for parts of the business, the people said.”

“The deadline for so-called going-concern bids that would keep the company operating was May 6, four of the people said,” Coleman-Lochner, McCracken and Kary report. “Borders and its advisers are still negotiating with a party that has put in an expression of interest for the company that would retain more than 200 stores, one person said.”

Coleman-Lochner, McCracken and Kary report, “The expression of interest is non-binding and requires due diligence by the interested party so talks could fall through at any time, said this person. The company hopes to find a buyer for some or all of the business in the next few weeks, two people said. The lack of offers for the whole chain may spell the end for Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Borders, founded 40 years ago as a single used bookstore in Michigan. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in February after losing sales to digital devices…”

Read more in the full article here.

36 Comments

  1. Makes me think of the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail’, where the big bookstore chain “F” “O” “X” puts the smaller bookstores out of business by selling books at a discount. That doesn’t really apply to today’s Borders and Barnes & Noble. A million books and almost all selling for the price preprinted on the back covers, few discounts in sight.

    Unfortunately today’s electronic distribution of books is no better, as they pretty much sell the electronic version of the book for nearly the same price as the physical book.

    To me the importance of the price paid supercedes the convenience of getting the book, as does the actual ownership of a book over the rental of the right to read the book.

    Will electronic book sellers go the same way as physical book sellers, leaving the consumer with NO options? If they charge more money than buyers want to pay….

    1. I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Walk into any large book retailer, and you’ll see discounts everywhere. It’s the first thing you see when you walk into the store — books with “X% OFF” stickers on the cover.

      Borders wasn’t killed by overpricing. Borders was killed by not offering anything better than the online experience. It didn’t use to be that way. When I visited a Borders for the first time in 1994, browsing the stacks was a delight. You were guaranteed to find something you never expected, that you never even thought to look for. A friend and I spent an hour-and-a-half in the store that day.

      But as Borders spread and became a dominant retailer, it looked for ways to maximize the profit of its dominant position, and that meant ditching a lot of the stuff which had made visiting the store so much fun, but probably didn’t sell well. Basically, Borders turned into a giant Waldenbooks, with the same crappy selection, but more of it.

      They lived high on the hog until Amazon came along. But by then, Borders was just a place you went to buy books, not to spend any time. And so when Amazon offered the same stuff at a better price, without having to drive, Borders was doomed.

      In a sense it’s the Innovator’s Dilemma all over again, a successful company that forgets why it became successful in the first place.

      ——RM

      1. I’ve paid full price for the last dozen or so books I’ve bought at Borders, predominantly paperbacks. I also paid the same ‘suggested retail’ price for an electronic version of a book as the actual, physical book cost. Yes, bookstores have discounted books, but in my neck of the woods they all fit on a table or three in the center isle and don’t compare at all in number to those books selling at suggested retail price.

        I agree with your logic with why Borders has fallen behind. More and more I can only find a copy of a book (for example, the 1st book of a multi-tomed series) online through, say, Amazon. I suppose as long as I can acquire my physical books online I can be content. Or better still when the cost of ebooks becomes more reasonable.

  2. I really hate to see a bookstore close that deprives people of the joy of reading. I remember when I was growing up and spent countless enjoyable hours in a bookshop browsing through books before I bought one. It encouraged you to sample the wares before buying a book you truly liked. It’s a real pity. Only the good die young it seems.

    My question is why do
    – IP trolls
    – RIM
    – RIAA
    continue to survive while better organizations die? It’s unthinkable.

    1. No one is going to be deprived the joy of reading if one company goes out of business. Maybe more people will embrace their local library more.

      You can sample many of the ebooks Amazon sells. There is the library again too.

      1. I’m sorry but sampling an ebook in Amazon is not the same thing as holding a book in your hand and flicking through the pages to see if you liked it or not.

          1. you can book park ebooks. forget the feel of the books, its the words that are important. Also an ipad can hold thousands of books in it. Doesn’t carrying your whole library feel good?

  3. There use to be a local store called Tower Records. Same logo on the digital device that took over their market too. Looks like a serial killer.

    What market does Apple want next?

    1. We’re all Apple fans here, but it more than a slight exaggeration to say that Apple had a meaningful part in Borders’s demise. Much more likely suspect would be Amazon; not so much because of the Kindle, but mainly because of the direct competition as a book seller. The primary reason, though, is mismanagement. Apparently, the competent senior management of Borders had left long time ago (after K-mart purchased the chain), and ever since then, the company hasn’t been that successful, regardless of their ambitious international expansion.

      1. The fact is that things change. The stage coach companies were undoubtedly gnashing their teeth when people started traveling by train. But what to do?

        1. Yeah, but that very book they were reading on that long coach ride still exists today, still readable, while the electronic book I bought yesterday probably won’t be readable 10 years from now without me jumping through hoops or buying it once again in the ‘newer, better’ format. Hell, books can last hundreds, thousands of years, which I doubt will be the case with today’s electronic books.

  4. My daughters (10 and 5) consider going to our Borders store a major treat. They are both good girls, so we go to Borders quite often. We browse and read a lot, and practically NEVER leave without buying something (a book; not a toy). In their little lives, Borders has had an important place.

    For some reason my wife and I were never big fans of B&N; perhaps because they were bigger and perceived as a bit more aggressive towards the independents, as opposed to the little-guy student roots of Borders. Once they close down the last Borders store in Manhattan, we’ll likely have to switch to B&N. It will be a sad day, though…

      1. There is only one problem with the public libraries here: their hours tend to be somewhat short. Borders is (was) open every day, until 10PM; pretty much all neighbourhood libraries close to us are closed by 6PM (and all day on Sundays).

        Also, a library book must be returned. Over the years, we had built a bit of a library for our girls. Just as the older one has outgrown some of the earlier stuff, the younger one is getting ready for it. The stuff that the little one had outgrown gets donated to our school. We just moved into a new apartment a few weeks ago; kids’ books took 12 boxes to pack. Vast majority of that came from Borders…

        1. Same here: three daughters, at least one Borders evening month, always leaving with a book that captures the memory of fun family time together. What we love especially is a monthly “Celtic jam” attended by up to a couple dozen musicians, often with spontaneous Irish dancing. My daughters all dance, and along with my wife play dulcimers and other instruments. There’s something magical about an atmosphere that combines books, music, dance, free wi fi and coffee on a relaxing Friday night that we all treasure very much. Borders has been one of our most happy family activities for many years.

          1. dancing? Now you’re going to miss a chance to dance cause Borders is closing down? LOL

            Go dance up and down the street and in front of your library. No one will stop you

        2. Public libraries are also staffed by rude public employees, who would rather be left alone than help you. Public libraries also lack the technical books that a borders has on hand. Not to mention 1/10 the the periodical selection. Libraries are neat, but Borders WAS a FUN bookstore to visit. I will miss it.

  5. I’ll admit I do buy my books online as I have found it cheaper then buying “in store”. However I would hate to see bookstores disappear. There is something unique about walking into a bookstore to peruse the books as opposed to do similar online. The feel of grabbing a physical book off the shelf and browsing its pages is very different and almost organic then reading a “book” on the computer or iPad. “Flipping” the pages on an iPad is not the same as flipping the pages of a physical book. I hope bookstores stay around for a long time to come.

    Good article concerning this:
    http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/02/17/the-marketplace-of-ideas-why-bookstores-matter/

  6. And on a somewhat related matter, the New York Public Library (the main building, at the corner of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street) is celebrating its 100th anniversary next week. When it opened, president Taft gave a speech…

  7. I agree it was always good to be able to browse through a bookstore but something I rarely do nowadays.

    It is clearly Amazon and other etailers that have caused the demise of bookstores. Just like the big bookstores spelled the end of small bookshops, Amazon has taken a lot of sales away from the brick and mortar stores.

    Unfortunately that is progress and with the advent of ebooks it will speed up even more. It would imagine Barnes and Noble could be in trouble in a few years especially once even one has an iPad.

  8. It was nice to see how kids visiting Borders would get into reading, browsing, and collecting. The library around here is nice, but not the same, plus you have the whole public funding dependency factor, which is not so dependable when budgets get tight.

    The only up-side of our local Borders closing was obtaining the “Computers and Technology” sign for my company’s server room.

  9. Borders’ problem lie deeper then the on-line revolution. Their managment team has been led by people who have no concept of book selling. My wife is a ex-store manager and I heard enough of the stupid decisions past down to the stores that I released four years ago they would not be around by 2013.

    When a store moves away from its principle area of expertise and can not compete on price, then it is doomed. Look at the amount of floor space and inventory wrapped up by CD’s and DVD’s which are priced at a premium.

    Then when profits fall, you cut the number of staff to make up the difference. Problem is customer service now suffers and people will take more of their dollars else where.

    Vicious cycle that runs over the store employees.

  10. I remember Computer Literacy in San Jose. (Tear). Border’s has been a destination for my entire professional career. There were three large stores in town (where I reside) and now there are two. With Bloomberg’s article this morning, it would appear that part of our common culture, and stress reducing destination is about to disappear. And those oatmeal raisin cookies with cranberries!

  11. I’m not saddened by this news and see this as progress.

    Barnes & Noble is next and all that will remain will be those quaint little bookshops who will fill the needs of those who appreciate the organic reading experience.

    Reading is not dead, the book market is. We’re not dumbing down, we’re wising up. I don’t see bookstores as temples of knowledge, I see them as a repository for tomorrow’s recycled trash. Good riddance to the bulky, overpriced, pulp fiction machine that is the heart of the book industry.

    The iPad and Kindle isn’t killing off this market, it’s channeling it into a new meme and I for one welcome the change. iPad and Kindle’s competition is television; the medium that is responsible for killing the joy or reading.

    Television is next. Television is a sick and twisted industry that is controlled by a handful of old, rich, white men that is responsible for turning generation X into a bunch of ill-informed zombies.

    1. Television is being reborn in Google Android and Google Chrome “that is [now] responsible for turning generation” Y and Z “into a bunch of ill-informed zombies” with Google Internet ads.

  12. In my neck of the woods there is still an extraordinary
    bookstore that has been around since 1982 and will be
    around in my lifetime. John K. King Used & Rare Books.

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