24 February 2011

Where to Shop When You Can ‘t Shop at 200 Borders Stores Any More – or – Under-Super-Size Me, Please!

A while back I indulged in a quasi-gloat about the impending, now finalized, bankruptcy of Borders Books & Music, and the closing of 200 of their once super superstores.

Across the country, independent booksellers are racing to pick up the slack, to take the place of the superstore down the street that had threatened to send their bricks and their mortar into retail oblivion.

Relax, independent bookstores. You don’t have to do a thing. People who used to wander aimlessly into Borders, hypnotized by the smell of brewing coffee, will now wander into your stores.

At your typical Borders there are miles of aisles with no one in them. Books stacked any which way, not a worker in sight. No one to greet you, ask if you need assistance. No one to point the way to poetry.

It may surprise your Borders shopper that there is such an animal as a local, independently owned bookstore. When she stumbles in – well – freaky might describe it.

She is likely to be greeted by a smiling employee, often the owner herself, who offers assistance while remaining discreetly out of the way when she doesn’t want suggestions.

Eye contact is common in independent bookstores, which may also be disturbing to chain-store shoppers accustomed to roaming super-sized barns in uninterrupted fugue state. By the way, Dissociative or Psychogenic Fugue is a real disorder that causes temporary amnesia. It may have happened to you at Costco, for all I know.

You will not be fuguing in your independent bookstore. However, you may be tired from your long journey getting there, as Borders (and Barnes & Noble) have forced many local stores to close in recent years.

If you no longer know of an indie bookstore near you, direct your Googlelectric device to Indie Bound (unfortunate name) dot org. Insert zip code, and Indie Bound will return location and directions to reachable stores.

I did this just now for my own location, 95420, even though I know darn well where my local bookstores are located. Indie Bound returned the locations of 19 bookstores within 100 miles, ranging from Levin & Co. in Healdsburg and Treehorn in Santa Rosa, to the independents of Mendocino County: Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, Cheshire Books in Fort Bragg, the Book Juggler in Willits, Laughing Dog Books in Boonville, Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah and Four-Eyed Frog Books in Gualala.

Vroman’s in Los Angeles and Politics & Prose in Washington DC are among those exchanging virtually worthless Borders Rewards Cards for their own instore customer cards.

Roxanne Coady of R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut, asked her customers what she might do now that Borders is closing. She was astounded at the more than 200 responses she received.

Some people suggested things R.J. Julia, and most other independents, already do – shipping direct to customers, offering electronic books on portable flash drives, and so forth. Others asked for price discounting, always a troublesome issue for low-margin independents.

Ms Coady told a reporter at Bookselling This Week although she wants to make all of her customers happy, deep discounting isn't her business. "I've always felt we've got to stick to what we're good at, and it might mean that we're not everything to everybody. The question is, are there enough customers who want what we're good at?"

Other independents such as Copperfields stores and Bookshop Santa Cruz do discount a selection of new books. They and others plan to continue the discount policy and publicize it.

At Vroman’s in LA, more than 80 people already have turned in their Borders cards. They have discovered the joys of shopping locally where suggestions are available and everyone knows your name, but only if you want them to know it.


“Fugue state” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: A fugue state, formally Dissociative Fugue (previously called Psychogenic Fugue) (DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders 300.13[1]), is a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality and other identifying characteristics of individuality. The state is usually short-lived (hours to days), but can last months or longer. Dissociative fugue usually involves unplanned travel or wandering, and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity. After recovery from fugue, previous memories usually return intact, but there is complete amnesia for the fugue episode. Additionally, an episode is not characterized as a fugue if it can be related to the ingestion of psychotropic substances, to physical trauma, to a general medical condition, or to psychiatric conditions such as delirium, dementia, bipolar disorder or depression. Fugues are usually precipitated by a stressful episode, and upon recovery there may be amnesia for the original stressor (Dissociative Amnesia).

The Indie Bound (unfortunate name) independent bookstore finder...

Bookselling This Week on independent responses to Borders...

1 comment:

Greta Kanne said...

Thanks for the shout out, Tony. We still miss Leaves of Grass greatly over here in Willits, but we're trying our best to keep our town's new book buyers happy.
Thanks also for keeping the spotlight on what a rich community of independent bookstores our county supports. Long Live the Indies!

Greta Kanne at The Book Juggler

Post a Comment

Please let me hear from you. It is easy to post your thoughts here. Due to spammers, I now am moderating the comments. If you are a human, you are in, but you may have to wait a few hours until I OK your pending comment. Thank you!