Man on the Street: Borders stores closing – what does this mean?

Floppy discs, VCRs, phonebooks and payphones – what were once considered staples of everyday life have slowly faded into the background as new technologies flourished. Are books – tangible, printed and bound pages of text – next to be added to the list of obsolete and fading trends?

After hearing the news of the Borders bookstore chain selling to a liquidator, which means the closure of all its 399 stores, The Sacramento Press went out to the streets of downtown Sacramento to ask people how they felt about this decision.

Robin Louie, 62, a retired homemaker from Roseville, said she thinks that the situation is terrible.

Robin Louie, 62

“We had a really big Borders and a Barnes and Noble across from the Galleria,” Louie said. “But that Borders was great. It was used for lectures and all kinds of other stuff for different groups. It’s just a bummer – it’s a shame.”

Carrying her copy of “The Accidental Bestseller” while waiting for her train at the Amtrak station, Louie faithfully remains a devotee of the paper book.

“I like books,” she said. “Real books. At Borders, there used to be a huge selection of CDs, but now there are few and fewer. And now, even if you go to stores like Target or Walmart, there are fewer and fewer books on the shelves. It’s just like newspapers.”

Louie, who just returned from a cruise to Alaska, said she noticed many people there with Kindles and other electronic books. “Too many people now use Kindles and things,” she said. “And I have to admit, they could be very handy. I read three books on the cruise, but with the Kindle, they would all be in just the one thing.”

Jonathan Su, 18, an incoming freshman at UC Davis, said that he was bummed to see the stores close but he expected it to happen. For Su, Borders was a place to hang out with friends and drink coffee at the in-store cafe.

Jonathan Su, 18

“It was pretty expensive,” Su said. “I usually read books there, but I didn’t buy the books there. It was like a library – you just look at the books. People usually just order off of Amazon.”

Su said he doesn’t think that the books themselves will become obsolete, however.

“I think there are some things about holding an actual book,” he said. “It’s not the same when you’re reading off of the Kindle or something.”

Justin Wolf, a 25-year-old photographer from Sacramento, has been a frequent shopper at Borders.

Justin Wolf, 25

“It’s a little disappointing,” Wolf said. “I shopped there often. I bought most of my books there, pretty much. I had the membership card and would always get emails about discounts, so I’d go there a lot.”

Wolf said he has never tried using e-readers or other devices to read his books. He added that he doesn’t think that e-readers will ever take the place of paper books.

“It’ll be like the vinyl,” he said. “They’ll always be around.”

Niki Williams, 32, an environmental consultant living in Davis, said she felt sad to hear of Borders stores closing despite being a supporter of smaller, local bookstores.

Niki Williams, 32

“Borders was a big-box company,” Williams said. “And even though I like to support local bookstores, it’s still really sad. It’s like removing another level of variety for consumers. And Borders wasn’t just a place where you could buy books. There’s a sort of a culture around bookstores of people who are interested in different things and in learning and expanding their horizons.”

While she said she understands the easy and convenient qualities of e-readers, Williams continues to read her books in paper form.

“I’m definitely old-fashioned,” she said. “I also like to loan people books I think they’d be interested in, and it’s hard to do that with e-readers. I think there will always be a niche market for books. They’ll be like classic cars – a select group will always follow them while everyone else is on e-readers.”

Leman Woods, a 38-year-old barber visiting from Oakland, had not yet heard about Borders closing before speaking to The Sacramento Press.

Leman Woods, 38

“I don’t know what to think,” Woods said. “I don’t read books – I go online to read, so I just use my computer. It’s more convenient because there are thousands of books in one place right there.”

Though Woods supports the use of electronic forms of books, he said he does not feel that they will ever fully replace the printed book.

“I don’t think everyone will start reading online or electronically,” Woods said. ”Not everybody is computer-literate.”

Christopher Ogawa, a 23-year-old cheer camp instructor from Elk Grove, said that he feels books and bookstores are very important and is sad to see Borders stores close.

Christopher Ogawa, 23

“Where will people go now?” Ogawa said. “Borders was an alternative for college students to buy textbooks that were usually expensive on campus. And now it’s one less place to study. It’s disheartening because text has been there since – a long time – but now bookmakers will be out of jobs and bookstores are closing.

“Electronic books won’t replace real books,” Ogawa said. “There are so many people in the education system that support and use books. And not everyone has access or money (for electronic readers), so books will always stay around.”

What do you think? Will electronic readers and other digital forms of text replace the printed book, or are books here to stay? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. 

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July 21, 2011 | 8:14 PM

these photos are great!

July 21, 2011 | 8:16 PM

Thank you!

Article Author
July 21, 2011 | 10:12 PM

Great photos indeed. Congrats on your first article!

July 21, 2011 | 10:35 PM

Agreed, these are really great photos. I’m a fan!

August 2, 2011 | 12:13 AM

What kind of camera are you using?

July 21, 2011 | 9:11 PM

It’s not the end of the era of the printed book–just maybe the end of the corporate big-box store. Note all the places where chain restaurants have been replaced by local restaurants–then apply the same idea to media like bookstores or record stores. And if there is a local coffee shop in the same neighborhood as the local bookstore, the corporate bookstore/coffee shop becomes redundant.

July 21, 2011 | 10:14 PM

I go to the Borders Book Store often on Fair Oaks Blvd. and it will be greatly missed!

July 22, 2011 | 8:37 AM

I don’t care. No wait, save the five and dime store, I going to get into my horseless carriage and drive to the mall for book. No wait, I forgot I live in the 21st century. I’ll just download it to my iPad and save the time and money.

July 22, 2011 | 10:10 AM

in both Laguna and Davis the Borders is a huge center of action. In both cases there are maybe ten other small businesses surrounding the Borders that will be hurt. It’s also going to be hard to fill retail spaces of that size in this economy. I’m sort of bummed Borders is closing.

July 22, 2011 | 10:41 AM

Yeah, that’s so true. I really can’t imagine what will replace the Borders here in Davis.

Article Author
July 22, 2011 | 7:48 PM

We’ve been down this road before, and learned a few things: Borders is gone, all money from now on goes to creditors and it’s inventory will be sold by a Liquidator, who takes a cut. Don’t buy the cheap books! you are just undermining the businesses that still operate here! The profitability of Liquidators actually encourages low performing Publicly Traded stockholders to crash businesses. Turn your back on Borders and let it die. Support another bookstore.

July 22, 2011 | 8:11 PM

This is scary, but for reasons no one here has yet mentioned. Local bookstores were once the ones on the fence with delocalized chain Borders pushing many into bankruptcy. Now, with Borders being pushed out by even larger and more central, apple store, and other e-retailers, there is a serious threat of losing everything good about local brick and mortar businesses. I hate to think that locally-owned retailers can be thought of as archaic, but it seems it is so. From “The Big-Box Swindle:” local bookstores contribute an effective local economic impact three times that of the chain Borders… e-retailing will surely generate less. That is what scares me.

July 23, 2011 | 8:54 AM

Are you really scared? Come on. Look at video rentals and record stores. You are not going to stop the changes. There is no red alert threat to society because technology is allowing us to access information faster, easier and cheaper. Even if every local bookstore closed tomorrow we would still have more access to information than we did 30-40 years ago. And I am not concerned that locally-owned retailers might disappear altogether. Some local businesses will go the way of the dinosaur but in time new ones will replace them. The problem is not with the changing technology but with minds and policies that are not changing along with it.

July 23, 2011 | 1:50 PM

No, Mark. The scary problem is centralizing business even more and having “Cheap” steamroll values and entrepreneurship. I am not anti-technology, I am pro-consumer choice; with things going the way they are, we will have less choice in the future and it will be between great community bookstores like Walmart or amazon…

Good readings are, “Big-Box Swindle” and “Cheap” if you don’t agree.

July 23, 2011 | 6:53 PM

“I usually read books there, but I didn’t buy the books there. It was like a library – you just look at the books.

Hence – why we went out of business. Thanks, freeloaders.

July 26, 2011 | 10:48 AM

Although it greatly saddens me thousands of workers will lose their jobs, I can only chuckle at the karmic justice in Border’s being squashed and forced out of business. Millions of indie, family owned bookstores were forced out of business by Border’s hegemonic domination of the book industry.

What comes around – goes around. I view the demise of Border’s as a form of economic justice against an antiseptic corporate chain which stomped it’s way through the booksellers industry and destroyed the businesses of small, independently owned booksellers and small press publishers.

There will be a tremendous amount of human wreckage with large numbers of unemployed Border’s staff. This weighs upon me quite heavily – since I am a highly skilled Literacy Worker who was laid off her job 2 1/2 years ago. 10 years of college, 4 degrees, 10 years experience in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill as a professional Human Rights worker, 25 years experience in the corporate sector – and NO JOB!

I have empathy for the laid off Borders employees – but feel no sympathy for the CEO and Board of Directors of Border’s bookstores. Their marketing strategies were fairly ruthless – they forced so many indie bookstores out of business – frankly, I’m thrilled to see Borders CEO and Board get it’s just deserts.

Now, about that “loss of community” – there is a plethora of places folks can gather, liase, build community. Patronize your local, indie java house, hang out at your coop, community garden. Public libraries have book clubs and social activities for literary enthusiasts. I love to hang out in used bookstores – since they cultivate lecture series, book clubs and community building.

I will NEVER buy a Kindle. Kindle’s create an ENORMOUS carbon footprint. Just more electronic junk to fill up toxic waste dump landfills. Kindle’s are the new “toy” for people with more money than common sense. Billions of pounds of electronic waste will wind up in toxic waste dumps because of Kindle’s. Early adaptors get easily bored with the latest “flavor ot the month” and toss their electronic gadgets when they lose interest – and feel compelled to keep consuming in an addictive manner.

“Re-cycling” e-waste is a racket and greenwashing. Recycling used electronic stuff – cell phones, laptops, TV’s, printers, answering machines – ALL of this actually creates more pollution. E-waste needs to be driven to collection centers – then shipped to a processing facility. The vast majority of e-waste winds up shipped to China on huge tankers – barefoot children, dressed in rags, equipped with hammers crack open used electronic consumer goods to extract whatever is valuable to be re-used. The amount of biocides, toxic waste generated by this is egregious.

This toxic waste winds up in our rivers, streams and food chain – it winds up in mother’s breast milk and human fatty tissue – then we die of cancer – which again – proves there is “cause and affect” with a tragic form of retribution for our collective ignorance and apathy about stewardship of the earth.

I’m sad about Borders closing – because of how badly it will hurt working class, decent employees. There is a ripple affect every time a business shuts down – unemployed folks have no money to pay rent – get evicted, wind up homeless, more child abuse, domestic violence, more drug/alcohol abuse – more mental illness. The economic toll it takes when unemployed folks have no money to spend hurts grocery stores, retail, landlords, etc. For every laid off worker, it hurts 1,000 other people.

Please patronize your local indie, family owned bookseller – volunteer at your local public library to keep it going in these times of huge budget cuts. Read aloud to youngsters from classical myths and fables. Join a book club. Refuse to buy a Kindle and read REAL books!
Join a Writers Group if you want socialization with other afficiandos of literary arts.

Rage against the machine………………

Above all, remember there is nothing more tragic than the cynicism of the failed romantic.

It is our language and literature which separates us from the savages. As long as two enemy nations are writing peace treaty language, as long as enemy nations are writing correspondence back and forth – as long as they use language to communicate with each other – there is peace. Violence starts when language stops. Literature – language is the universal civilizer.

Practice Permaculture!

Keep Hope Alive,

Princess Fifi Trixibelle

July 26, 2011 | 9:52 PM

You make some excellent points. Borders is getting its just desserts, although the people at the top automatically get to land with the help of golden parachutes while the worker bees don’t have anything to cushion their fall. Sad.
I have a Kindle which I only use when traveling or waiting for my kids’ extracurricular activities to end. I prefer to have an actual book in my hands at other times. Nothing takes the place of the paper/hardback book in one’s hands.
Thanks for your thoughts–and a reminder: when you write a word in the plural, don’t use an apostrophe:).

July 27, 2011 | 4:30 PM

Of course I did not read your booklet Princess. You lost me with your scorched earth “logic” and unintended hyperbolic statements. You rail against the machine yet a machine made the paper book you love so much and since you are responding on a web site I can only conclude you are doing so via a nasty computer. A Kindle or iPad are just computers Princess. Or maybe you wrote with quill and parchment your reply to SacPress and sent it via the postal service so someone else could type it in for you? You must be so disappointed that you have to read this online, on a computer and not in book. What was that again…the Kindle causes cancer? What caused cancer before the Kindle? Maybe the waste/ byproducts from paper mills and printing presses?

July 26, 2011 | 2:34 PM

Not to either agree or disagree with anyone’s comments about the demise of Borders, but that’s not the question. The question that ES put to us is “will e-readers & other forms of digital text replace the printed book?” My answer is a qualified yes. E-readers themselves are just an intermediate step before tablet computers become ubiquitous. Non-fiction books with lots of graphics don’t translate well to digital form, but eventually they will be replaced by “cyber-books” that are meant to be read on screens instead of on paper. Borders going under is a big deal for their employees, but the rest of us will adapt. Newspapers going under may cause democracy to go under with it. Another debate for another day.

July 28, 2011 | 1:06 PM

I am a writer and I look forward to the day to just have “E-book readers” or “Kindels” so I don’t need to have to buy or store books anymore. I am self-publishing a new book through “create-space” but I reall would like to charge for it to be “downloaded” , but I worry about copyright laws.
But also I frankly I also hope that college and university students could now just download textbooks and save educational costs.

July 31, 2011 | 5:56 PM

I’ll miss the Borders on Fair Oaks Blvd. It wasn’t just a retail store, it felt comfortable and familiar, a place to meet friends too. I don’t like how everything changes so fast, its unsettles my feeling connected to ‘my village’. Now I can just order online cheaper and stay more isolated. My hope is a resurgence of smaller, indie bookstores that will morph into a new, profitable animal where people can meet and share ideas, etc! I know there are passionate people out there who love books and community!

September 23, 2011 | 5:50 PM

I guess interviewing people “out on the streets” means interviewing people at the downtown Amtrak station and the Starbucks next door to it.

September 24, 2011 | 9:09 PM

They should have just gotten rid of their Seattle’s Best Coffee. I will certainly miss the Borders in Davis; I used to go there every Sunday just to lounge around, probably why they went broke.

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