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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Poll Question: What Does Borders Books and Music Closing Mean For the Industry?


Photo credit: Mandel Ngan - AFP/Getty Images

If you've been reading this blog awhile, you know where I stand on the gradual demise of media retailers. I won't spend a bunch of paragraphs rehashing what I've stated before. If you want to really get in the nuts and bolts of my feelings, kick up my review of I Need That Record! The Death (Or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store in the DVD reviews section.

Part of growing older means watching your way of life and the foundations of what resonates with you drift away. Some call it culture shock. Some call it simple old fogyism. It happens, period. The ironic thing for me is that I come from a generation that witnessed the dawn of the tech explosion we're currently watching unfold before our eyes. We frontiered, as consumers, the acceptability and better, enjoyment of video games, CDs, home video, computers, color t.v.s and portable phones. My generation is the last one who can remember cassette tapes and black and white television screens. We also played outside more than we hung inside. That was, until the cable t.v. revolution pinned us indoors, at least for awhile.

No, we didn't have to tramp five miles to school as our elders proclaimed, but we were a relatively simplistic society that was nurtured on physical products, i.e. paperback novels, hard cover texts, albums, comic books and such. The Jetsons represented a possibility of the future that was more fun to daydream about than to actually be confronted by.

That's where we're at now as a society. The advancement of technology is fundamentally based on a need to meet the imaginations of Star Trek, Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Jetsons. Plain and simple. We want that damned com link we can slap on our chests and reach someone nebulae away. We want gadgets that entertain us and take us out of our day-to-day grind, even so much as walking down the street without having to look up and face the world.

Again, I'll stop there, because my point's been made and it is made to point out why the closing of a retail king like Borders Books and Music stings like hell. Okay, people may argue Borders was corporate, sometimes overpriced. That's the industry dictating what Borders could charge, honestly. One can thus argue that technological advancements with iPods, iPads and digital book readers is keeping the industry honest.

True, however, we are losing more and more of ourselves the more we surrender to all of this glorious tech. As with independent record stores, the closing of Borders eliminates a social aspect that's dying off with the advent of online social networking and digital downloads. We love the convenience of getting things within seconds instead of driving miles for the unsure thing. However, there's a part of life to that disappointment when Borders or whatever emporium of the wares one seeks doesn't have something desired in stock. It sucks, it's annoying, but what satisfaction when you finally get the damned thing, yes?

I may have been infuriated with Borders for shooing myself and a bunch of other purchasers away the day Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows was released when we arrived early in the morning to buy an advance ticket for the book at midnight. I ended up going to their primary competitor who was eager to sell me a ticket for the book that night. I stood in a very long line to get my copy, but I won't ever forget the event itself and the people who were there, those whom I met and never saw again but their faces are fresh in my mind. People dressed up in Hogwarts chic to get that final chapter of the Harry Potter saga in print, much as they did on opening day for Part 2 of the film rendition this past weekend. It was a cultural phenomenon you can't get from a stinking computer. It was nerdy, it was ultimately silly, but it was something memorable and Borders was a part of it. Think of all the people they did sell copies to. Economically-speaking, that's a big loss.

Perhaps it's just me and a lot of it has to do with the fact I'm a writer and I have a new novel I want the world to read once the right channels produce it. The loss of Borders has just cut off a large sanction of potential readers and that hurts. If you're a creative person, every possible outlet that gets your words to the masses is precious. They may overcharge, they may inadvertently lower your future earnings growth by dumping the excess stock into the discount bins, but as long as the connection is there, you're being read or at least advertised to the world. It's a sad day for me personally, that Borders, after hanging tough with bankruptcy looming overhead, is closing up altogether. Tech has a lot to do with its demise. The crummy economy is the other factor. It's up to Barnes and Noble, a superior chain that has its finger on the pulse of both live and electronic-based audiences, to keep the spirit alive. Them, and Books-a-Million and all the indie book shops scattered throughout the country.

Bless all of them, because they're the final line of defense. I won't ever forget the day I cracked open Stephen King's The Shining for the first time at age 12, bought for me by my grandfather at a bookstore in 1982. 'Nuff said...

Does Borders closing up affect any of you folks? Let me hear from you.

6 comments:

DPTH International said...

Borders closing does not effect me personally, but the idea that it is, does. My usual source (HMV) is closing several stores thoughout Canada, which sucks.

I'm sure the Super Store I frequent will remain. However, the disturbingly large lack of new stock does not bode well. Over the last few years HMV's stock has diminished and now has become increasingly harder for me to track down albums by bands (whose earlier work I picked up so easily there). Most of my shopping has been through the internet.

There are still a couple of independent/ Used stores I frequent which keeps the thrill of the hunt alive. Who knows for how much longer, though.

cjk_44 said...

the effect of Borders closing will be minimal. over the years i've probably only bought a handful of CDs from Borders (mostly blues). the location near me always seemed to be teeming with customers despite the downward trend experienced by book/music stores.

like DPTH, it is the thrill of the hunt that is slowly disappearing. very sad.

Metal Mark said...

"because they're the final line of defense"

The line of defense between what? Reading off a piece of paper and reading a screen. Is it really that different?
The economy has just hurt so many specialty stores like those that sell books, antiques, movies, records, comics and more. Just the way it unfortunately. Money gets tight and you have to cut down on the non-essentials so the specialty stores suffer.

Support your local libary and your local trade in used book store (there is one in your area).

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Yeah, Dpth, it's what the closing represents that hurts, more so than the actual chain itself. If the economic times were more solid and technology wasn't doing its best to fossilize hard copy everything, then I think it would be a minor setback. It's more difficult to market in the internet, I believe, since retention span is lower since people surf in a hurry through a billion bits of data and close down ads or move through them without a thought. We'll see if the retailers and the web can somehow reach a happy medium, though I'm not too hopeful.

I agree with you both that the thrill of the hunt is the best part to traditional retail. We're in a spoiled, instant gratification society, so it can't relate to doing footwork to find consumer goods and relish when the
objective is met.

Mark, have no fear. Where we used to live, my wife hit the library 3-4 times a week, my son 2-3 and me at least once a week and that trend will continue since finances remain slim and we all enjoy what the library has to offer us on different levels. You of all people will appreciate that.

Metal Mark said...

Ray-Have you ever been to Willow Tree books on Manchester Avenue? They have been there since the
80's. They only take paperbacks, but you trade them in for credit. Use the credit to get new paperbacks there and you only pay like a small additional charge per book. Great store, but the owner has had the store for a long time and I wonder how much longer she will keep it going. So I try and go and take the kids there once a month.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

When I lived on that street when we first got married, we went there all the time since it was right there. I think she closed briefly or reduced her hours because when we moved to the other part of town, we'd go back and she was never open, so we pretty much bailed on that store, not realizing it was still open in some fashion.