Culture

Borders to Close All Stores

As someone who has always enjoyed browsing (and buying) in bookstores, this is sad news from the Wall Street Journal:

Borders Group Inc. said it would liquidate after the second-largest U.S. bookstore chain failed to receive any offers to save it.

Borders, which employs about 10,700 people, scrapped a bankruptcy-court auction scheduled for Tuesday amid the dearth of bids. It said it would ask a judge Thursday to approve a sale to liquidators led by Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group.

The company said liquidation of its remaining 399 stores could start as soon as Friday, and it is expected to go out of business for good by the end of September.

Borders filed for bankruptcy-court protection in February. It has since continued to bleed cash and has had trouble persuading publishers to ship merchandise to it on normal terms that allowed the chain to pay bills later, instead of right away.

“Following the best efforts of all parties, we are saddened by this development,” said Borders President Mike Edwards. “We were all working hard toward a different outcome, but the head winds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, [electronic reader] revolution and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now.”

Borders’s best chance for survival fell apart last week when talks with private-equity investor Jahm Najafi to buy the company collapsed. Borders scrambled unsuccessfully over the weekend to find other potential buyers who would keep the chain alive.

The chain’s demise could speed the decline in sales of hardcover and paperback books as consumers increasingly turn to downloading electronic books or having physical books mailed to their doorsteps.

I love Amazon’s Kindle app, and the flexibility of being able to carry around a library of books that can be read anywhere, from the seat of a 737 to the treadmill at the gym, not to mention the ability to cut and paste book text to quote in blog posts. But the rapid demise of the book, even more so than the concurrent ongoing demise of the CD, the videotape and — the handwriting’s certainly on the wall — the DVD seems more than a little painful to swallow.

Beyond as a gift at Christmastime, what sort of future does the traditional dead-tree book have?