Thoughts on Borders Bankruptcy

Borders Books is in bankruptcy and I’ve seen all kinds of blame going around.  I was most irritated by people who blamed customers for Borders demise.  That’s like saying the customer doesn’t know what they want and that we as customers should be joyful for whatever Borders brings to our lives.

I haven’t been to a Borders in months.  The last time I went, they were having a tent sale to get rid of awful books and the random non-book crap they sell.  Before that visit, I noticed that my Borders was selling fewer and fewer books in favor of the random non-book crap.  Most of this non-book crap is the random crazy-cat-lady crap you’d find at a Hallmark store.  If I can’t find any books I want to read at Borders, what am I supposed to do?  The obvious means available to me is an online book seller like Amazon.  Case-closed:  Amazon wins and Borders loses and has to at some point unload all that random non-book crap at pennies on the dollar.

I read a lot of manga and lately I’ve heard a lot of manga publishers and their related sympathizers complain that with Borders closing they will have fewer places to sell books.
Shelf space is limited and expensive and how are smaller titles to get attention when a bookstore has to stock all 50+ volumes of a wildly popular series like “Naruto”?  And then on top of that, they complain that have to put series on hiatus and forgo renewing licenses because customers aren’t buying the books from neither the physical bookstores or online bookstores.  It seems to me that something is fundamentally broken.  Here are some things that come to mind:

   1. How many of us have room for 50 volumes of any series before we even talk about reading multiple series?
   2. How many of us have $500 plus tax to spend on 50 volumes of any series.  Now ask yourself how many 12-year-olds have this kind of money?

The way manga is sold makes absolutely no sense and trying to sell manga like normal books is ridiculous.  I say to all the manga publishers out there, know your customers and take a commonsense approach to the space issue.  If there are more than 5 volumes, put it online, sell kids access they can buy for cash at a brick-and-mortar store, and charge a price that is commensurate with the age of your target audience (10 to 25-cents per chapter will do nicely).  Relying on a bookstore to push paper when shelf space is rare, manga is prolific and fractured, and the customers are used to reading stuff on the Internet is a losing proposition.  The Borders bankruptcy has nothing to do with manga publishers woes.  The manga publishers have yet to address their customers unmet needs and don’t seem to realize that it’s not the customers’ job to address the unmet needs of the publishers. 

Back to Borders…What can Borders do to save itself.  Well…the obvious thing they can do is actually sell books.  In the end, though, I truly think there isn’t much Borders can do.  They can sell books online, but they need something to differentiate themselves from and improve upon the experiences Amazon and Barnes and Noble offer.  They could get smaller and more community connected.  I like small spaces with books, magazines, pastries, and hot drinks.  I also like places where there are knowledgeable sales people who like and know about the books they sell.  There’s nothing better than to go into a bookstore and ask what’s popular with 5-year-olds and have somebody help me chose the perfect present for my niece or my friends’ children.  Maybe they could position themselves as a “for profit library”.  People need help doing research and finding that special book for their special need.

I wish Borders all the luck in the world and I will return to my local Borders Bookstore once they stock actual books again.

13 thoughts on “Thoughts on Borders Bankruptcy

  1. When I heard Borders went bankruptcy, due to low-sell books, I was kind of disappointed because I almost frequently go to my local Borders for manga, books and hot coffee. I was even a member there, but yeah I had seen people go there less and less time. Where I had seen MORE and MORE people was at Barnes & Nobles. So from now on, I'll go back to my Amazon again to order books because I know Amazon offers free-shipping if your cart total is over $20. Plus new books gives you the discount. I wish Borders so well… Ahem.

  2. We ran into the same problem with Borders. Our family has 3 manga buyers and it was difficult to find even the latest copies of the most current series. Suffice it to say, Amazon started receiving a lot of our business.


  3. I don't think there is anything Borders can do to stay alive at this point. They can't compete with Amazon at the online-only everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach, and they can't compete with Barnes & Noble at the online+in-store approach. In-store just isn't enough anymore. Plus B&N has the university book store market locked-in. On top of that Amazon and B&N both have their own established e-book readers.

    I think it is just too late now. If Borders had made an effort to distinguish itself online early on, things might have gone differently. If they had come out with a good E-book reader early on, things might have gone differently. But they have been on the trailing edge of everything. Unless there is another big revolution in how books are distributed within the next few years, and Borders is the first to take advantage of it, then I just don't see a market left.

    If they try to do any small, incremental improvement, anything they do online will be beaten or copied by Amazon, and anything in-store will be beaten or copied by B&N.

  4. Blaming customers when a store goes out of business is like blaming the person stuck in an elevator. Basic laws of supply and demand; if a store has supply but no demand, it's natural that they go bankrupt. I don't have a Border's near where I live, but I have lived in places where that was my first choice (since I dislike Barnes & Nobles). But the last time I was in a Border's was a few years ago.
    I move out of BAM territory this summer, I think I'll probably end up with a bad case of book-store withdraw! Pretty much all my books will be compliments of Amazon then.

  5. Well, I go to Barnes and Noble to buy my manga because there's no Borders here. And whenever the latest manga I want isn't there, I usually ask a person who's working to order it for me o_o I can't really buy manga online so it helps.

  6. If only they could find a way to release manga series (even chapters serially) via Kindle or Kobo or Nook.
    That'd be a way to support the original artists and make sure manga is supported. Heck most of us are reading it digitally before they get legal rights. If I can get manga faster, I'd def buy online that way.

  7. It was sad that Borders undergoes bankruptcy…I live in Malaysia and I heard once in news that this issue won't effect Borders here but lately,I saw lesser books in Borders especially the mangas. They don't put the earlier volumes (which kind of dissapointed since I can't buy online) I usually bought my mangas either at Borders or Kinokuniya but since recently Borders loss my interest due the said I choose to buy mangas and books from other bookstores. I hope they'll try to do something to overcome this situation.


  8. I am kind of happy borders haas gone bankrupt, the prices were never the best when it came to manga, example a manga on amazon ranged between 7 to 9 dollars while borders kept all their manga at 10.50 and up for many of the popular titles. Im surprised people still went to book stores, I havent been to a book store in years since 2001 maybe when i started with only amazon. Better deals and greater selection on amazon compared to borders, borders all they are good for is the coffee shop which i heard great reviews about but not about books. Borders cant compete when it comes to selection in the stores, they are limited and only stock what is preferred regionally, amazon you have a selection.

  9. Borders, like other bookstores, is competing for your entertainment dollars. They are not just competing against Barnes & Nobles, they are also competing against Wii and Playstation. Bookstores are facing the same competition as hobby and arts and craft stores. As the book buying public goes more on-line (Amazon and e-readers), even the bookstore component of our leisure time is squeezed.

  10. FWIW, tends to be less expensive than Amazon for manga and they offer free shipping almost worldwide all the time – not just when you hit a certain dollar amount. I'm not sure if they're cheaper than Amazon or Kinokuniya or wherever as a rule, but I often comparison shop them and Amazon and BD is usually about a dollar less expensive and I can use Paypal.

    I thought I'd leave this comment in case anyone who mentioned cost problems comes back to see it… BD is usually English-language only, though, from what I can tell.

    Also, speaking of digital manga and charging a more affordable price, have you seen e-manga? I think it's DMP…Tokyopop just started working with them for a few series, and I thought it looked cool, only to discover that they deliver the files via Flash and you have to be connected to the internet to read. Such nonsense! I want to be able to save the books so that I can read them when I'm traveling or offline – that's a huge part of the appeal of digital over physical copies. (And it's why I love scanlators' .rar and .zip files. One day, if an ereader can handle those the way Quivi does, I will invest in it.)

  11. @Keri — Actually, I was pondering doing releases with Flash too in order to mitigate the problem of dumbasses uploading our projects to manga aggregation sites.

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