Customers Turn The Page On Borders

It's the final chapter for Borders. The once-dominant bookseller will close Sunday, a victim of growing online sales and other problems. NPR's Jeff Brady talks to customers in Pennsylvania making one last purchase.

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Borders, the books and music retailer, plans to close the last of its stores today. The Michigan company filed for bankruptcy in February after a disappointing holiday season and years of financial difficulties. Through the spring and summer, executives tried to find a way to save Borders, but in July, they announced nearly 400 stores would be permanently closed. NPR's Jeff Brady visited a Borders in suburban Philadelphia.

JEFF BRADY: Outside the Springfield, Pennsylvania Borders there's a long, yellow going out of business banner hung above the Borders sign. Under that, big posters announcing everything is 90-percent off. Employee Sneha Abraham will be out of a job soon.

SNEHA ABRAHAM: I only got the job because they were going out of business, actually, 'cause they needed extra people to push stuff out.

BRADY: Abraham says the last few days have been busy, but traffic into the store slowed a bit as the book selection thinned out.

ABRAHAM: All the fixtures are for sale. A lot of the bookcases have sold already and people are coming and taking those away.

BRADY: Nearby, Tiffany Howard is loading the back of her SUV.

TIFFANY HOWARD: And I found a nice bookshelf for my classroom. I'm actually going to use it for a puzzle holder to separate the puzzles in my classroom.

BRADY: Oh, so it's got, looks like 20 different little compartments.

HOWARD: Yes, and when I don't need it for a puzzle shelf, I'm going to use it for the kids' mailboxes.

BRADY: At ten dollars, she says it was a bargain. Michael Klambara left with seven books. The total bill: fifteen dollars. He echoes market analysts who say Borders suffered from a combination of problems, including poor management, the economy and a business that's changing.

MICHAEL KLAMBARA: I guess with the e-books and everything coming into prominence, it was bound to happen. It was definitely bound to happen, unfortunately, but I still prefer holding a book but the e-books seem to be taking everything over.

BRADY: For some customers leaving this Borders, the store closing is a loss. Martha Penny was lugging a bookcase across the parking lot.

MARTHA PENNY: I'm sad. Borders is my friend. It's been my friend for as long as it's been around. That's all. It's just sad.

BRADY: Already inside her car, Patrice Kelly has a bag with three books inside that she paid less than four dollars for.

PATRICE KELLY: Sad day.

BRADY: Really?

KELLY: I think so.

BRADY: Because?

KELLY: Bookstores are closing.

BRADY: So, where will you go now?

KELLY: Barnes and Noble, maybe, or Amazon.

BRADY: As the last Borders closes, rival Barnes and Noble is in better financial condition. Still, its stock price sits at about a third of what it was four years ago. Amazon, on the other hand, appears to have the confidence of investors. Its stock was trading for about $35 at the end of 2008. On Friday, it traded for nearly seven times that - $240 a share. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia.

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