Bidding Borders Goodbye

I’ve long been a fan of Borders and rejoiced when a store opened in Folsom, California, half an hour from the small town where I live in the Sierra Foothills of California. My hubby and I would often stop by after dinner on a date night. He knew a visit to Borders would be better than dessert to his book-loving wife.

I watched the slow process of Border’s demise with sadness. When each store-closure list hit cyberspace, I scrolled through them, breathing a sigh of relief when the Folsom store wasn’t there. I’m one of many who hoped that a buyer would rescue the chain and wept when July 17th came and went and no one had stepped forward.

On Friday, July 22nd the Going Out of Business Sale began. The Folsom store opened at 9 a.m., and I was there, as was a disappointed TV crew. There weren’t long lines of bargain hunters eager to get inside. Like the reporter, I was surprised, and yet I was also relieved. I’d not come to grab all I could get. I’d come to say goodbye, and I was happy to do so without a crowd of witnesses.

For over five years I’ve been writing. One of the ways I kept myself motivated was to visit Borders, head to the Christian Fiction section, and imagine seeing my book on the shelf. I’d come to know the names of my potential shelf mates well. When I visited the section that day, I saw that the book that would have been to the right of mine was Bittersweet by Cathy Marie Hake. “How fitting,” I thought, as my dream of visiting “my” Borders store to see my debut novel faded.

The sale at Borders will continue until some time in August or September, but the store has already ceased to exist. A liquidator has taken possession, a fact I learned when I handed the clerk a Borders coupon she couldn’t accept.

At present much of the merchandise is only marked down by 10%, although some sections reflect 20, 30, or 40% savings. I anticipate the prices will drop as the sale continues.

The atmosphere in the Folsom store when I visited Friday was one of sadness. I think many of those present were there as I was, to mourn the passing of an era. Times are changing, and the big-box bookstores are on the way out. Most of those I talked with cite the advent of digital books as a reason, although some agree that Amazon has had an effect. Some postulated that we might see a resurgence of indy bookstores.

One thing I found surprising was the attitude of the young people I spoke with who were perusing the shelves in the Young Adult section. I asked them if they preferred reading paper or e-books. They were quick to respond with “paper.” One young woman was adamant as she told me she would “never” buy an e-reader. Hearing such a declaration from one so young did this dinosaur writer’s heart good.

I returned to the store on Saturday, driven by curiosity. Somehow I wanted to know that Borders would be missed by more than a handful. Relief filled my heart when I found the store resembling Christmas Eve with the line for the registers snaking halfway across the store. I’m sure some were there for the bargains, but I prefer to think they, too, were there to bid Borders farewell and had simply been at work the day before.

Will I return for another visit before the doors are locked for good? No. I’ve paid my final respects and will move on, but I have memories of Borders I’ll treasure for years to come.

• • •

How do you feel about Borders going out of business?

What reasons do you give for the chain’s demise?

Where do you get most of the books you buy?


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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23 Responses to Bidding Borders Goodbye

  1. We went through the same thing with our Borders here in Alameda a few months back. I couldn’t bring myself to say “goodbye” and when they began selling their lamps and tables, I wanted to cry. We do have a small independent chain, Books Inc, which I will start to frequent; but haven’t done so yet.

  2. Katie Ganshert says:

    Definitely definitely makes me sad! I just hope Barnes and Noble holds out for awhile yet!

  3. cynthiaherron says:

    The Borders store in Springfield met with its demise recently, too, Keli. It was indeed very sad, because like you, I’d envisioned one day seeing my book on its shelves in the Christian fiction section. 😦 I saw something on Yahoo news recently that intimated that Amazon was a major factor in Borders’ downfall. On the bright side, this particular interview said that bookstores are not going by the wayside by any means. We’re just seeing a bit of a different shift. (And I still think that people will always want to read printed books–there’s just something about the feel of the actual book in one’s hands and the fresh, clean scent of brand new pages.)

    (My very last purchase at Borders, BTW, was Jody Hedlunds “The Preacher’s Bride.” It’s still in my TBR pile at the moment, but I know it’s going to be a keeper judging from the salesclerk’s excited squeal!) 🙂

  4. MaryC says:

    Keli, I know exactly how you feel. Our Borders on Wall Street was one of the early ones to go. Earlier this summer as I was cleaning my writing files, I found a diary entry I’d made the day that store opened (about 6-7 years ago); it was exactly the same dream you posted about. I’d written about hoping to see my book on the shelf in that store. 😦

    Barnes and Noble is our weekly “date night” store (because it’s only 5 blocks from my house) but Borders was our special date store because we had to plan in advance for that one. It was worth it and I’m so sad.

    BTW, my 22 year old is also a firm no-e-book person.

  5. Karenof4 says:

    Your story is so heartbreaking. A year from now you would’ve seen your book there! 😦 The first time you see your book in a bookstore, you will have to close your eyes and imagine you are standing in YOUR bookstore.

    Seeing all these bookstores close is so sad. I love bookstores. I can’t stroll through Amazon and breathe in that glorious bookstore smell, but Amazon is handy when I can’t get to the bookstore, which is often.

    I also love to cuddle up with a book. No matter how hard I try, cuddling up to my Kindle app just isn’t the same. When I travel or suddenly find some free time away from home though, I love grabbing my phone and reading a good book I have downloaded with countless titles at my disposal, all without carrying a thing.

    I love all the choices we have available to us to get a good book, but I wish they could coexist together.

  6. I will miss it. I would sit for hours on the floor in the children’s section reading books. Great way to do research. And… yes I did purchase a few.

  7. Anne Barton says:

    What a lovely tribute, Keli. I passed by a busy Borders in the mall yesterday. Part of me wanted to go in, but I didn’t–it already seemed like a different place.
    I’m headed to the beach soon, and I always look forward to visiting the small bookstore there. It’s tiny and hot and every shelf is packed; the aisles are crowded with stacks of books on the floor.
    I sure hope they’re doing okay!

  8. the writ and the wrote says:

    I’ll admit to being a die-hard fan of Amazon. It’s hard to resist the low prices and free shipping. That being said, I also support the brick and mortar as much as I can. I am hoping to get to Borders again before they close. I would have spent more, but the 10% wasn’t quite enough to entice me.

  9. Loree Huebner says:

    We have a Borders just 10 minutes away. It will be greatly missed, especially at Christmas. Don’t forget to use up your Borders gift cards.

    Nice post.

  10. candidkerry says:

    Oh Keli, I know exactly what you mean. I pulled into our local Borders just last week, only to find a deserted parking lot and dark windows. A month prior, it was a busy store. 😦 The boys and I were very sad to see it so.

    And I do the same thing – browse the Christian fiction section, reading author names and covers, taking it all in, dreaming…one day… 🙂

    We do have Barnes and Noble closeby, and I hope-hope-hope it stays open.

    I’m old-school and also can’t stomach the idea of e-books. I’m years away from a Nook or Kindle! But changes seem to be coming, and it makes this hands-on book-lover sad.

    Thank you for this touching post. (I cried!)

  11. Beth Vogt says:

    Keli, I am saddened too that Borders is going out of business. It is not the only bookstore I shop at, not even the preferred bookstore. But I hate it when bookstores close … It’s the reader and writer in me wondering, “Where are the readers? Where are they buying there books?”
    I love paper books … and I also own a Kindle. I’m surprised how much I’ve come to love my Kindle. I no longer have a pile of books in the passenger seat of my car. But I still love and purchase “real” books from “real” bookstores and from Amazon.

  12. A difficult transition, indeed. Our downtown Borders has been out of business for a while. The last time we went downtown for a date night, I thought, “I’d love to get a cup of coffee at Borders and sit for a while.” Then I remembered it wasn’t there anymore. Such a bummer.

  13. When I first moved to south Florida I would often spend a quiet afternoon or early evening in the local Borders in Boca Raton. Since then I have moved to another town and the nearest Borders was too far, so I began frequenting the B&N in Coral Springs.

    I still meet writer friends or an old friend I haven’t seen for a quiet coffee and a survey of the stacks and what it up front. Alas, I must admit I buy most of my books from amazon and have done so for the last eight years. That never stopped me from buying a book at the store. Having Kindle still doesn’t stop me from buying a book from on-line of the store. I also love the library. There is something magical about the sight, the smell of books that takes me to my toddler years when my big brother took me in hand to Story-book Hour at our local library. My first job was a shelving clerk at a library in Brooklyn. Nothing can ever replace holding a book, running your hands over the binding, feeling the weight of it … I will always buy them just like I still miss album covers … there is something sacred and special about an good old book. I still own some I had in Junior HS.

    They are our friends and the booksellers who are struggling are our friends … friend of the reader and the writer and champion of the last bastion of traditional education. It is sad to see them go );

  14. candidkerry says:

    I forgot to answer your last question.
    I buy about 1/3 from Lifeway Christian store nearby, 1/3 online (Amazon), and 1/3 at Target/Barnes & Noble/other bookstores. 🙂

  15. This was a sweet tribute, Keli, and almost brought tears to my eyes. 😦 I feel very sad about Borders closing, and even though the closest one to us was at a mall about 40 min. away, I have many good memories of my kiddos and me browsing and enjoying a snack in the little cafe there. ~ I’m very blessed to have a Books-a-Million store only 5 min. from my house, and I LOVE that bookstore!! Their Christian fiction section has grown in the past few years, which thrills me! ~ I hope and pray that we won’t be seeing the other major bookstores closing down.

  16. Susan Mason says:

    Never been to a Borders or a Barnes & Noble, but I’m sad to see any book store close. Our bookstore here is Chapters and I’m praying they don’t ever close! Even though they don’t have a Christian Fiction section!

  17. Susan Mason says:

    P.S. which is why I have to order mine on-line. Usually from the Book Depository b/c they have free shipping almost anywhere!

  18. Keli Gwyn says:

    I appreciate your comments–and your understanding. Sounds like I’m not alone in mourning the loss of Borders. It will be interesting to see what happens with the other major booksellers over the next few years. What comforts me is that no matter where they purchase their books or in what format, people are reading.

  19. Strange. This news came about right after I visited a B&N in Northern KY. I remarked to my hubby that night about how empty I thought the B&N seemed. The shelving was spread out, lots of open space. I simply think book stores are carrying fewer and fewer books.

    I shop mostly at Joseph Beth Booksellers. Love that store. Hope it’s strong.

  20. Keli, I know what you mean. The one on our side of town closed several months ago. Now the last one will go. I will miss the employees!

  21. I’ve mostly been using the library, because I can order up a new book (put it on hold) and stop by when it’s available. I visited one of our local Borders and the scene at the check out reminded me of “You’ve Got Mail.” People were telling the staff how sad it was, but instead of the small buy being pushed out by the big guy — the big guy is pushed out by what? changes in the industry, a bigger guy, ebooks. I paid almost $3 more for a local author’s book after its 20 percent discount at Borders than I could have purchased it from an online retailer.

  22. Julie Nilson says:

    In terms of volume, I probably bought the most from Border’s. There’s a Border’s right in the middle of a major shopping district in my small town, so it was easy to get to while I was running my usual errands; plus, they have a huge kids’ section, so that’s where I’d go for birthday party gifts for my kids’ friends (especially since those tend to come in waves!).

    What really stinks about Border’s closing is that there are two smaller indie bookstores nearby (used to be three others), and that created a sort of book-buying center: People looking to buy books would come to the area, knowing that among those different stores, they would certainly find what they wanted. The owners of the two remaining indies, contrary to what one would think, are *not* happy about the giant chain closing.

    While I’m fortunate to live in an area that has plenty of other book-buying options, I’m really going to miss that massive magazine section in Border’s, where I could find lesser-known publications that don’t get carried by the drugstores and grocery stores.

  23. Here in western Canada Chapters is the big box bookstore. Although there are other chains and independents that I like to support, I love spending a whole morning or afternoon lost in the miles of shelves in Chapters. So I understand the attraction of places like B&N and Borders in the USA, and I hope our Chapters survives.

    I remember when Chapters first arrived, remember wondering how they could afford to carry all that inventory when so often people went in like I did, and browsed, admired, had coffee, but didn’t necessarily buy. Some of our long-lived independent bookstores have folded (like 52-year old, family-owned Duthie’s that closed the last of their eight stores in Vancouver last year) but in my heart I believe a lot of the smaller stores will survive even if the big ones don’t. They’ll need to change and adapt, but they cater to readers and offer personal service while the big box and discount online stores often don’t.

    I borrow library books when I can’t afford the armload of purchases I’d prefer, but when I shop I probably buy more than three-quarters at local stores (in Chapters, Black Bond and two Christian bookstores), and less than one-quarter online… the latter only when I can’t find what I want locally.

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