As of this morning, Monday the 18th of July, it seems pretty much inevitable that Borders will no longer be a presence in the American retail space soon. Their failure to compete with Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, especially with regard to the Kindle and Nook eReaders, led the company to bankruptcy earlier this year. At this time, Borders Group employs over 11,000 people in over 400 stores nationwide.
At this point, bidding for the company has passed and there seems to be little hope for recovery for America’s second largest book retailer. While earlier this month a buyer had seemingly been found for the troubled company, creditors have rejected the bid based on the possibility that the new owner would be able to liquidate the company after purchase. Unable to find common ground on that topic, and having no other serious bids, liquidation of what is left of Borders seems to be a sure thing.
Overall, this would seem to be a story about a failure to adapt to a changing marketplace. Even before the eBook revolution, digital distribution had become a major, and possibly the major, means of music acquisition for many consumers. Hundreds of Borders Superstores around the country still kept, and still keep, whole floors of CDs collecting dust.
When it came time to jump into eReading, Borders was late to the game and didn’t really manage to do anything to set themselves apart. Their own eBook store, built in 2008 after breaking away from an affiliation with Amazon, was weak to begin with and eventually ended up being replaced outright by Canadian partner Kobo. While they did make a splash as the first company to being a sub-$150 eReader to America by way of the previously mentioned Kobo partnership, no real effort was made to produce or even settle on a single product.
The decline of the company was not abrupt. The last time Borders turned a profit was back in 2006. Still, many will mourn the death of yet another major brick & mortar book retailer as the convenience and lack of overhead that sites like Amazon.com provide make the local bookstore less profitable and less common. Should things go the way they look to be over the next several days, Barnes & Noble may well be the last major bookseller with a nationwide physical presence.
All of this may be good news for Amazon as they become that much more essential for the avid reader. Without a local Borders store, many consumers will be forced to turn to the internet to make their book purchases. It will even likely have some small impact on the sales of Kindle eReaders as the ease of acquisition for less prominent eReading devices, previously sold to varying degrees in participating Borders stores, drops off. Some even wonder whether this might not hasten the decline of the printed book, since it makes the impulsive browsing experience that much less tactile. If one is forced to buy something that can’t be held and inspected ahead of time, it might be better to go for the option with instant delivery and no risk of damage in transit, right?