Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Borders files for bankruptcy, closes stores, and my thougths on the publishing industry

The writing has been on the wall for Borders for a few years now, I think. We all knew it was eventually going to happen, it was just a matter of when and how. For those who have been reading my blog for a while you know I worked for "a bookstore" (I never named it) off and on for the past three years. Those who know me personally know that the bookstore I worked for was Borders. I woke up yesterday to see news of the bankruptcy filing, this wasn't too surprising. What was surprising was seeing that a list of the closing stores had been leaked to the Wall Street Journal before employees were even told. I read the list to see that all three Austin area Borders stores will be closing. I cried. I cried for my friends who have lost their jobs. I cried because it seems like bookstores, one of my favorite places in the world, seem to be an archaic thing of the past. I cried because a part of my life is, literally, closing. I cried because I was angry.

I wrote some of this post yesterday but realized I was blinded by my anger and needed a while to cool down and let my thoughts become more rational. Today I think I'm more sad than angry. I still have very close friends who work for the company and will now be jobless. There's rumors of employees not getting severance packages or being able to use employee discounts anymore and other things. I'm not sure what of this is true and what isn't, but it makes me sad. I know people who have worked for this company for 10+ years and they get... nothing? Maybe a thank you on the last day? It breaks my heart. Yes, Borders had its problems and truth be told wasn't the best company to work for (I was a manager for a while, trust me, I KNOW this wasn't the company's only problem), but I keep thinking about what I (we) could have done differently. Next time you order from Amazon or pirate an ebook, remember that thousands of booksellers and book-loving people lost their jobs yesterday and will probably continue to lose their jobs if we, as a society, continue down this path. No, this was not the only reason Borders had to close stores, but I do think it had a lot to do with it. I think Indy bookstores will (hopefully) be here to stay, but the day of the Big Mega Book Mart is gone and it's only a matter of time before other chain book stores follow Borders in filing for Chapter 11 or simply closing all together.

From a writer's point of view, the news of Borders going under scared me. So many people were talking about how publishing is dead and I got sucked in to their beliefs. I spent most of the day yesterday wallowing in self-pity and doubt and second guessing my choice to stay home and write full time. But you know what? Publishing will never be dead. True, times may be changing, but the need for writers and new, original stories will always be there. There will always be people who love to read and people who need to write down the crazy ideas in their head to stay sane. This alone give me hope that I'm doing the right thing. I have stories that need to be told, so I'm telling them, simple as that. I may be wrong, the whole publishing world may crumble to its knees tomorrow and I may never get a book published, but you know what? Somewhere out there someone will be interested in the stories I tell and the words I weave on paper and for now that's good enough for me. Is it good enough for you?


  1. It is kind of sad, but just how business is going these days. Checking prices on-line is now the norm. I did that myself last night and was surprised when Barnes and Nobles on-line store beat Amazon's prices and offered free shipping.

    Just sharing my story. I still think there is a market for second hand books in the form of Half Price Books though. Just my thoughts.

  2. Don't worry. There will still be books. People will still read books and write books and buy books and sell books. Border's problems had a LOT more to do with crappy business sense than anything else.

    Will it be harder to make a *living* selling books? Probably. But most of us are very good at finding lots of ways of supporting ourselves. And fewer than 10% of published novelists make their living solely from their books right *now*. None of us are in it for the money.

    In the meantime, the indies are doing better. Hell, McSweeney's just started a new children's imprint. This, too, shall pass, and stories will endure.

  3. It takes a lot of guts to write. But I'm a big believer in asking yourself the Mary Oliver quote: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?"

    You have a gift; keep writing.

    It's such a bold, brave plan for such a beautiful person.