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Borders Bookstores No More

Updated on November 19, 2015

Yes, in fact it happened, Borders bookstores closed its doors and made their final curtain call after serving millions of customers for more than 40 years!

This farewell departure was ushered in by several converging factors.

The Internet and Technology

The prolific force of the Internet giving online access to books, magazines, newspapers and other informational products placed it on the chopping block.

In an ironic twist of fate, ten years ago Borders reached out to now behemoth Amazon to develop its online presence. That move to outsource such a critical operation was the beginning of the end.

At the time, it was under tremendous pressure to regain profitability which was based on the old school business model of the bigger the physical footprint the bigger the profits. This assumption could not have been further from the truth.

To add further insult to injury, during the last five years the eReader revolution began to take hold and dominate the marketplace.

A growing number of customers who once only made purchases inside a store now began to read from such electronic devices as Amazon’s Kindle to Barnes and Noble’s Knook.

Furthermore, the arrival of Apple’s resurgence with its I-Pad and its other competitors internet based tablets was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The Changing Customer

It’s fair to point out that customers themselves have tactically contributed to the demise of Borders. An evolving pattern of undermining the physical bookstore sales model has been occurring for the past decade.

They range from the loyal “customers” who met with friends over coffee several times a week and never purchase so much as a newspaper during the entire year.

Then there are the “patrons” who visited on numerous occasions to completely read a $30 dollar hard back classic book from cover to cover without the slightest intention of buying it.

If that weren’t enough, the large tables and comfortable individual seating which was meant for paying customers slowly succumb to the changing customer profile of " thanks for the hospitality but I'm not buying"

A particular group, amongst others, that exemplifies the “clientele” shift in proper business usage was the local college student. They would meet together and commandeer Borders as a favorite study hall spot without any accompanying revenue sharing.

Unfortunate Lessons Learned

Borders neglected to make the hard decision to creatively restructure and utilize its own resources to build a more branded online experience for its customers.

They failed to recognize the acceleration of change and direct its flow rather than resist its authenticity.

It by passed the opportunity to engage in long term sustainability. Instead they digressed to a short term priority of profits and real estate expansion.

They overlooked the “writing on the wall” that revealed a certain exponential increases in the cost of doing business as usual.

This viewpoint was essentially the same as clinging to a sinking ship rather than adapt and change and set sail for rescue from the adequate lifeboat options that were available.

These are the unfortunate lessons of a once great American business story.

A story about how Borders helped back to back generations cultivate its love and enjoyment of reading throughout the country.

Saturday morning children’s reading clubs, up and coming author meet and greet sessions and the early propagation of the audio book on compact disc were just a few of its bright lights shown before the final curtain call.

Brick and Mortar Bookstore 2.0

My question is what’s next? Some of us who embrace the benefits of the internet and technology are still not quite ready to dismantle our home book shelves.

We continue to embrace the notion that the tactile experience of holding a good old fashion book and turning paper pages is a very worthwhile experience.

Yes it’s handy and useful to have huge amounts of information contained in a small electronic device but should that be the final chapter to the personal experience of reading?

I submit that the aura of the physical bookstore goes beyond the act of a transactional purchase.

Perhaps there is room for a second generation of the local bookstore with a different revenue model. Envision a regional bookstore presence that caters toward different markets yet is accessible to everyone.

For example, suppose this type of bookstore provided an exceptional and targeted user experience for its customers in exchange for their support.

This model would be similar to the personal touch of the local barber shop or neighborhood hair and nail salon with one major exception as follows:

Five Dollars a Month

As the traditional enjoyment of the bookstore is primarily a self-directed activity the main revenue could be derived from a modest customer membership model. This would be in contrast to a book sale driven bottom line. For example, there might be a two tier levels of membership 2.99 /mo (basic) or 4.99/mo (premium).

Customers would choose the level of access or services they would like to enjoy and that would promote the fulfillment of expectations on both sides. That revenue stream along with other product and relevant service sales would allow them to offset the reduced pricing from the online stores and still make a profit.

No longer would the retailer lament over the “use of their space for free “and customers would be able to enjoy one of the great activities many have grown up enjoying from childhood without being relegated to the public library.

It’s really similar to a pay as you go or play model that has been effective across other industries.

There are those who may say the days of the all physical retail bookstore are numbered and good riddance.

I’m certainly not one of them and will definitely miss Borders being around!

I hope you join me in that sentiment :-)



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    • StayPos profile image

      StayPos 2 years ago from Florida, USA


      Thanks for the compliments on this hub :-) There is something special about having access to physical books in our every increasing virtual world.

      I understand the benefits of convenience, reduced space, materials, etc. Nevertheless, I believe there is still great intangible value to have an available choice to experience learning by interacting with a physical book, magazine or newspaper.

      I'm glad you enjoyed reading and thanks for your vote up :-)

      All the Best

    • janshares profile image

      Janis Leslie Evans 2 years ago from Washington, DC

      Great article, StayPros. Very well-written presentation and analysis of the sad demise of book stores. I share your sentiments, even wrote a hub about the love of real books by book lovers. Your section on "Brick and Mortar Bookstore 2.0" shares a lot of my sentiments about having access to a physical book. I loved your ideas in the section "Five Dollars a Month." Your business acumen is evident. I have a Barnes and Noble in my neighborhood on the campus of Catholic University. I feel lucky to be able to walk in and buy books. I just wish I had time to read them. Voted up and interesting.

    • StayPos profile image

      StayPos 3 years ago from Florida, USA


      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this hub :-) As a person who enjoys holding a good book in my hands I find it indeed unfortunate our options for physical books in a retail setting has dwindled down to essentially B&N. In times past, for example, it was great when traveling to plot on the agenda various bookstores choices to soak up the local atmosphere, meet a friend or colleague or just enjoy some physical browsing and discovering time. I do agree that having a tablet and access to digital books is great. I just wished we could have found a meaningful coexistence balance between the arrival of digital technology and the brick and mortar footprint that many of us still enjoy.


    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Yes, I was very sad when Borders Books closed. Reading this article was very interesting and I know understand why it closed. Your suggestions or model of what they could have done to stay in business are good ones. Too bad they didn't do what you suggest. Barnes and Nobles is now the only bookstore we have in my area. They certainly now have a monopoly on books sales here. They have managed to stay in business even with the Kindle and Nook used by so many today. I myself use a Kindle and love it. It is so convenient for buying and reading books. Thanks for writing such an interesting hub on the demise of Borders Books.

    • daborn7 profile image

      daborn7 3 years ago from California

      This is the first I am hearing about this, I feel like I have been living in a cave for the last few years. I am saddened to hear that my once favorite bookstore is no more. :( I am with you on this one. You have some really great ideas for the bookstore too. Thanks for sharing.

    • StayPos profile image

      StayPos 6 years ago from Florida, USA

      Hey Dexter!

      Thanks for chiming in with your vote :-)

      All the Best

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 6 years ago from United States

      I join you in that sentiment, Stay Pos! Great hub and options for bookstores to survive.

    • StayPos profile image

      StayPos 6 years ago from Florida, USA


      Having Borders around was such a great staple in the community from the mall to the airport to the stand alone store.

      When traveling I always enjoyed making a visit to the local BB store.

      The thought of printed books going the way of the dinosaur is not very appealing.

      Let’s hope Bookstore 2.0 or some other variation will inspire America’s entrepreneurial spirit and give all us paper book lovers an alternate solution.

      As always thanks for adding to the conversation :-)

    • StayPos profile image

      StayPos 6 years ago from Florida, USA

      Paridise 7,

      Thanks for dropping in and glad you enjoyed.

      Yes, a sad final curtain call indeed :-(

    • StayPos profile image

      StayPos 6 years ago from Florida, USA


      Thanks for your comments and compliment :-)

      I've loved reading and browsing bookstores since I was a little “staypos" so I share a keen interest as well.

      My sense is because the enjoyment of reading is so personal there should be room for all the different formats. The final platform shouldn't always all be dictated by profits alone.

      Similar to other industries like retail, hardware, the movie industry change is everywhere and there is lots more to come.

      I hold out for space being available to accommodate all diverse customer preferences across the board.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Stay Pos! I was just thinking about this when I went to the mall and saw that my local Borders closed! I'm curious as to how this is all going to shake down. Are we eventually going to have zero printed books? And if so - I hope the electrical grid stays intact!

      Way up!

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      We'll all miss Borders. Good hub.

    • BWD316 profile image

      Brian Dooling 6 years ago from Connecticut

      nice hub! voted up! its really interesting to see how the book industry has changed over the years from small independent bookstores to the big brick and mortor stores of barnes and noble and borders, then to online sales of Amazon, and now the ereaders! But like you i really enjoy holding a physical book and having my physical library of books. with that said there are many benefits to ereaders, the saving on paper, the convience of carrying (especially textbooks!) It will be interesting to see what's next on the horizon!

    • StayPos profile image

      StayPos 6 years ago from Florida, USA


      I appreciate you stopping and adding value to the discussion :-)

      Great question on the disappearance of paper books all together!

      I think it was a couple of years ago that that the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos gave an address on that very subject.

      I'll see if I can locate it and post it here.

      His answer was essentially yes, let's get rid of all paper books.

      I emphatically disagree; call me old school or a romantic I don't care.

      I often enjoy the actual contact with a real physical book rather than looking at a LCD screen all the time :-(

    • Cloverleaf profile image

      Cloverleaf 6 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      Staypos, I am not familiar with Borders as a bookstore but technology does seem to be shifting in a direction where the traditional paper book is being picked up and read less and less. Do you think that paper books would ever become obsolete altogether?

      A thought-provoking hub - rated up/interesting!


    • StayPos profile image

      StayPos 6 years ago from Florida, USA

      Hey BobbiRant!

      Thanks for the compliment.

      Yes, Barnes and Noble is still hanging in there :-)

      We have one that is across the street from a university and seems to be in good shape.

      I think they coordinate with their campus bookstore to offer text books.

      In today's environment business must creative and think outside of the box.

    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 6 years ago from New York

      I used to love having coffee and looking at books there. In Lafayette Indiana, we had both Borders and Barnes and Noble, both served coffee and seemed quite close in a lot of styles. My favorite thing I read, was some guy who bought a bunch Sarah Palin's books and was selling them for like 50cents as door stops. Good hub.