Saturday, February 19, 2011

Borders and bankruptcy

I've been pretty clear in my remarks in the past about Borders: bad Internet strategy, arriving late to the e-reader game, poor customer service ... there's no way to ride out such bad decisions (and, yes, poor customer service is a decision). But I couldn't help but read the news about the company's filing for bankruptcy and think about those dedicated employees who not only loved their jobs and cared about the customers, but also loved books and cared about promoting them, selling them, getting people excited about them. I think there are fewer of those than you might suspect -- I've put in many, many hours in bookstores (including a 27-hour shift once; don't ask) and was surprised that so few of my co-workers shared my passion for the printed page -- but if there are only a few hundred among the thousands of folks who will lose their jobs, that's still sad.

People liked to rail against the big box bookstores back in the day, and I myself heard a lot of that. But without places like Barnes & Noble, where I worked, and Borders, where friends of mine worked over the years, many book lovers might not have been able to get jobs in the book retail industry. At the few independent bookstores in the area, there weren't many available jobs and turnover was rare. Meaning: far fewer jobs for folks like myself. When the big stores came into town, they brought jobs with them. Jobs that meant the other folks who loved books had a chance to play "kid in a candy store."

Hopefully, the real book lovers out there will find another job selling books in their area. And the others -- those who were working at Borders, but just because it was a job -- hopefully there's an opening at the Chico's down the road.

In the meantime, let's keep our fingers crossed that The Powers That Be at Borders have a turnaround plan that will keep the remaining stores open ... or at least many of them. I'll freely admit that I buy a lot of my books at nowadays, but a community without a bookstore is a sad, sad thought.