I love the feel of a crisp newspaper or a book. While I am going to go the Amazon Kindle route like the rest of the world, I hope the printed word, on real paper, won’t entirely disappear.
That’s why I was truly saddened to see the Borders bookstore chain fall into bankruptcy and disappear from the retail landscape.
I remember the day Borders opened their first flagship store in Center City Philadelphia in the early 1990’s. They revolutionized book retailing with unmatched selection, author lectures, a café and community events. They had the same innovation DNA that Jeff Bezos used to build Amazon.com.
While I get free review copies sent to me by book publisher publicists trying to pitch authors for my show on WPHT 1210-AM Radio, I still bought my fair share of books at Borders, Barnes and Noble and independent book shops whenever I could.
The Rise of the Bookstore Hobos
But late in Borders life, I observed a sad change. The cafes transformed from being a gathering place for coffee and conversation to something I can only describe as “bookstore hobos.” These people, clearly bookworms, would buy a $2 coffee and plop down a pile of books to read!
These cheapskates would nurse that single coffee for hours while voraciously consuming Borders’ books and magazines for free.
I wonder if these so-called “customers” understood they were crossing the line from browsing to full-blown retail freeloaders. If these book lovers had shown a little bit more love to Borders by buying more than a cheap cup of coffee, maybe Borders would have been able to survive a little bit longer.
I recently passed by the vacant Borders store in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia where I live nearby. It’s sad to see something that had been so vibrant for so long now dark and eerily quiet. Perhaps if more people stopped treating Borders as their personal library and reached for their wallet and bought a book or two once in a while, things would be different.
I’m a realist. There will always be retail Darwinism and companies that don’t change and innovate will go extinct. I know it’s difficult to compete against a visionary like Jeff Bezos. Amazon is now one of the world’s leading retailers and the Kindle e-book reader is definitely a game changer.
But if you really are a book lover and you walk into a bookstore, you ought to walk out with more than a $2 cup of coffee.
What do you think?
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