Borders Closing Its Bookstores After 40 Years

Borders is closing after failing to find a buyer that wants to run the bookstore chain. The bankrupt firm will be liquidated. Some stores will close as soon as Friday.

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Borders is going into liquidation. The Michigan-based bookselling chain declared bankruptcy earlier this year, and tried to find a buyer who was interested in keeping it alive. There were no takers. So after 40 years in the book business, Borders is calling it quits.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra reports.

JENNIFER GUERRA: When it comes to why the second-largest retail bookseller in the nation went under, everyone has an opinion.

Ms. SHERRI HAUBER: I think e-books hurt Borders. You know, on my iPad, I can get a book from Amazon.

Mr. LARRY MOLNAR: It was inevitable. You know, I think that if you watched Borders over the past several years, you saw a lot of management change, and they seemed to happen regularly. So there's a lot of churn at the top.

Ms. PAT JOHNSON: There's just so many other ways people read today. I mean, I do have a Kindle, and I do have an iPad.

GUERRA: That was Sherri Hauber, Larry Molnar and Pat Johnson. We caught up with them outside the flagship Borders store in Ann Arbor, just minutes after the company announced it was closing.

Another person I talked to said the whole bankruptcy boils down to real estate, that Borders went on a big buying spree in the '90s and ended up with a lot of overpriced space that they couldn't unload.

But Jane Freidman, a professor of electronic media at the University of Cincinnati, says Borders' demise has less to do with real estate and bad management, and more to do with the reality of the 21st century.

Mr. JANE FREIDMAN (Electronic Media Professor, University of Cincinnati): It's a big sign of the larger transition we're all making to digital books and digital reading devices. So we're probably going to see a further decline of the bricks and mortar stores, and further movement away from people reading print or paper books, and more people adopting digital reading devices.

GUERRA: Perhaps the most telling piece of news came in April. That's when Amazon announced for the first time since the Kindle was introduced that it was selling more e-books than print books in the U.S. But Freidman says that doesn't necessary spell doom and gloom to the book industry and to book culture in general.

Ms. FRIEDMAN: Some of the angst that's surrounding this will eventually settle down, and people will realize that it's not that books are going away or that reading's going away, but we're changing the way that we get the books.

GUERRA: Little solace for the nearly 11,000 Borders employees who are soon going to be out of a job.

In a statement released yesterday, Borders says the liquidation process will start almost immediately for some of its stores. The book company currently owns about 400 stores, down from more than 1,200 in 2003.

Mr. STEVE AMICK (Author): When I was a kid, Borders was where you went to find out about books that you didn't know about. It was like walking into the Internet, before the Internet existed.

GUERRA: That's Ann Arbor native Steve Amick. Both his novels, "The Lake, the River & the Other Lake" and "Nothing But a Smile," were sold at Borders stores nationwide. Amick wishes he could say the demise of Borders means more independent bookstores will pop up. But he doesn't think that's the case. His prediction...

Mr. AMICK: I think bookstores, more and more, will resemble bookstores at the airport, you know.

GUERRA: Where most of what's offered are cookbooks, vampire novels and celebrity tell-alls.

For NPR News, I'm Jennifer Guerra.

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