Briefly on Borders

Hey, this thing still works.

So it’s probably an open secret that when I refer to “The Bookstore” I’m talking about a Borders Bookstore located in Washington, DC. And it’s probably even less of a secret that Borders is in some serious trouble. You might’ve picked up on this if you’ve been Googling “Borders Group” even inconsistently for the last few years, but even if you haven’t, the Wall Street Journal on Friday publishing this article as breaking news probably clued you in:

The troubled Ann Arbor, Mich., bookseller could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy-protection as soon as Monday or Tuesday, paving the way for hundreds of store closings and thousands of job losses, said people familiar with the matter.

Borders has abandoned efforts to refinance its debts, and is preparing bankruptcy papers and seeking financing agreements that would keep it operating during the Chapter 11 restructuring process, the people said. Its shares tumbled 33% to 25 cents apiece in 4 p.m. New York Stock Exchange trading after The Wall Street Journal reported its plans.

“Borders is not prepared at this time to report on the course of action it will pursue,” Borders said in a statement.

Borders’s finances crumbled amid declining interest in bricks-and-mortar booksellers, a broad cultural trend for which it offered no answers. The bookseller suffered a series of management gaffes, piled up unsustainable debts and failed to cultivate a meaningful presence on the Internet or in increasingly popular digital e-readers.

It’s my strong belief that the store I work at will be okay. I mean, as long as restructuring bankruptcy doesn’t become liquidation bankruptcy. In any case, my specific store is one of the highest volume stores in the country, so we should be okay. I mean, obviously, I’m not privy to what’s going on in Ann Arbor. We should be okay. (I hope we’ll be okay, anyway).

Meanwhile, I like the words of Peter Osnos in last month’s The Atlantic:

Ultimately, a successful bookstore, on any scale, depends on a specific understanding of how to make the most of the outpouring of books and the digital transformation that will attract readers. Whatever else Borders does in the months ahead, it needs to recover its belief that real book-selling is an art (with all the peculiarities that entails), as well as a viable business.

So, Borders Executives: can we please please PLEASE just go back to selling books? Thanks.

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