Last weekend I went to Borders here in Fresno to shop their going out of business sale. I didn’t expect to find many bargains since this store will supposedly remain open until late September, but I wound up spending sixty-some dollars. Deals on cookbooks and animal books were abundant. I browsed around the store for at least an hour and as I was doing so I was reminded of my days in Seattle where every Wednesday night, with very few exceptions over a five-year period, I attended a critique group downtown. The building where we met just happened to house a huge Borders’ store on the ground floor. I usually tried to arrive early so I had time to check out the latest books (always study your competition!) or simply to browse the massive number of books and movies and CDs the store carried before going to my meeting.
The clearest memory I have of that Seattle store is that it was always busy. Sometimes there were three or four check-out lines—and that was at six-thirty in the evening, not weekend afternoons. Every seat placed around the store was occupied. The second story coffee shop area was usually busy as well. The last time I was there was late spring 2002. If someone would have suggested to me back then that a high end bookstore like Borders would be facing bankruptcy in nine years, I would have laughed them out of the building. And yet, nine years later, here we are.
I’m as guilty as anyone for allowing this to happen. The sad truth is, prior to my stop at Borders this past weekend, I hadn’t been there for over a year. As for why, I have one a one-word answer: Amazon. Let’s face it, most of us have very busy lives. It’s much easier to sit at our computers in the evening after a tiring day and browse for books (or just about anything else). We don’t have to leave our chairs to make a purchase, and it arrives at our doorstep within a few days. Amazon doesn’t charge for standard delivery—three to five days (or two days if you are an Amazon Prime member). Buyers in most states, California included, don’t have to pay sales tax either.
We can talk all we want about changing our ways, promising to make our book purchases at only book stores, but the reality is that we won’t follow through on that promise, at least not for long. It’s time consuming and costs more—not a very viable business plan. Logic then would dictate (as Mr. Spock would say) that the answer to the question in my title is a sad but resounding yes. The end of Borders is the end of an era, and there is nothing we can do about it. Change happens, and that change is not always for the better.