Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2011 Issue

No Borders:  Pioneer Bookseller Closes Down on Both Sides of the Pacific

Bordersclosing

Going out of business.

Borders is no more. The once great bookseller, begun as a small local bookshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 40 years ago, is closing all of its stores. The firm's President, Mike Edwards, issued a statement saying, "We were all working hard towards a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, eReader revolution, and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now."

 

Founded by University of Michigan students Tom and Louis Borders in 1971, Borders grew slowly during the first half of its life. Then, in 1992, the Borders brothers sold their successful but relatively small chain to K-Mart. K-Mart was still a powerhouse competitor to Wal-Mart back then. At the time, Borders had just 21 stores. Under K-Mart's tutelage, Borders rapidly expanded. K-Mart merged Borders with its Waldenbooks unit, the major mall bookstore at the time, but K-Mart was struggling with a myriad of its own problems in the 1990s. The large discounter decided to spin off Borders in a public offering in 1995 to focus on its own issues.

 

Borders was on the cutting edge of the latest form of bookselling in 1995, one that it had pioneered - large stores with comfortable chairs, coffee and pastries, a place for people to gather, read, talk, eat, and, hopefully, buy some books. Growth continued, more stores were opened, and other items, noticeably music, were added. Customers loved the place. Eventually, the Borders Group operated over 1,000 stores.

 

Unfortunately, as the bookseller entered its fourth decade, the book market began to change from under it. Notably, online selling, particularly in the form of Amazon, started eating into its business. Borders did not adjust. It took ages to develop its own online business, by which point it was hopelessly behind. Borders last made a profit in 2006. As losses mounted, the firm was forced to take on high interest loans to proceed, which only further weakened its financial stability. Then, electronic readers came along, a huge boon to Amazon's business, but Borders was again way, way late to the party. After years of trying to find a buyer, Borders was forced to seek bankruptcy protection in February.

 

At first, it appeared Borders might have a savior. Direct Brands, owner of Columbia House, made an offer with an intention to keep the book chain going. However, controlling creditors did not believe this was their best deal. Instead, they let the bankruptcy proceedings proceed towards an auction, which was cancelled at the last minute when it became apparent there would be no bids beyond that of a liquidator. Instead, the remaining roughly 400 Borders stores, inventory, furnishings, and whatever else it has, will be liquidated. Over 10,000 people will lose their jobs. It is estimated the final stores will shut down in September.

 

For those who have purchased one of Borders late-arriving e-Readers, there is no concern about the manufacturer going out of business. They were made by Kobo, and while this company's investors included Borders, it is a separate entity, free from Borders unresolvable financial problems.

 

Borders run was like a shooting star. Once it took off, it shined brightly for a couple of decades. It was a major force in moving bookselling from small, crowded, often independent stores to large, roomy book salons. It was a format that became immensely popular in the 1990s. As Mr. Williams noted in his statement, "For decades, Borders stores have been destinations within our communities, places where people have sought knowledge, entertainment, and enlightenment and connected with others who share their passion." With the advent of the internet, people learned to buy, connect, socialize, entertain themselves, and share their passions in front of a computer screen. Borders was no longer necessary. Bookselling may struggle these days, but it survives. Borders does not.

 

The situation is no better for Borders in Australia. The Borders brand in Australia is not owned by Borders. It is owned by REDgroup, the largest book retailer in the country. Nevertheless, the results are the same. Borders Australia went into "administration" (like a bankruptcy filing) in February, and announced in June that all of its remaining stores (nine) in the country would close down in July. No buyer could be found to keep them going.

 

Meanwhile, Australia's largest book chain, Angus & Robertson, also owned by REDgroup, is closing 42 of its stores. Layoffs are expected to exceed 500. There are 48 Angus & Robertson stores operated by franchisees, and these are expected to remain open. Nineteen other non-franchise stores may remain open pending talks to sell them. The online businesses of Angus & Robertson and Borders were sold to Pearson Australia Group and will also continue in business. For REDgroup, whose stated vision was "to be the number one retailer of books, stationery and entertainment in the markets in which we operate," and which briefly achieved that goal for books, these transactions mark the end of the line.

 

For those who cannot bear life without Borders, a few scattered stores may continue to survive the U.S.closings, though their long term prognosis remains clouded. There are two Borders in Singapore, and reportedly, those stores have been financially profitable. Though, like the closed Australian stores, they are owned by bankrupt REDgroup, they continue to operate with no indication of closing. Whether they will be able to continue indefinitely, and if so, retain the Borders name, is not known.

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Chiswick Auctions: Autographs & Memorabilia. February 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Autograph album featuring signatures by prominent actors, politicians, musicians and authors, including Rudolph Valentino. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> An extremely rare working radio script for Crazy People No 29, the first series of <i>The Goon Show.</i> £600 to £800
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Manuscript prayer book, in German. 8vo, 1755 £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Italian Manuscript on Geometry, with diagrams, 18th century. £500 to £700
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    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Thorburn (Archibald). Sparrowhawk, original watercolour & gouache, signed & dated lower right, 1917. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Burton (Sir Richard Francis). <i>Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah.</i> 3 vol., FIRST EDITION, 1855-56. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> [Mount (Richard) & Page (Thomas)]. <i>The English Pilot. Describing the Sea-Coasts…</i> 31 engraved maps, W. & J. Mount, T. Page, 1756 £4000 to £6000
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    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> D’apres De Mannevillette (Jean-Baptiste Nicolas Denis). <i>Le Neptune Oriental.</i> Paris & Brest, [1775 – 1781]. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Loring (Josiah). Terrestrial Globe Containing all the Late Discoveries and Geographical Improvements. Boston, Gilman Joslin, 1846, £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Shelley (G. E., Capt.). <i>A Monograph of the Nectariniidae, or Family of Sun-birds,</i> FIRST EDITION, by the Author, 1876-80. £4,000 to £6,000
  • <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Albert Einstein A remarkable letter on God in English, one of his most eloquent and quoted, 1 p, July 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Benjamin Lincoln's commission as Major General in the Continental Army, February 19th, 1777. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Broadside. A Poem Upon the Bloody Engagement That Was Fought on Bunker's-Hill. 1775. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Early, full printing of the Star-Spangled Banner in The Yankee, October 7, 1814. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Paul Revere. Engraving, “The Boston Massacre Perpetrated on March 5, 1770," in <i>Massachusett's Calendar 1772.</i> $8,000 to $12,000.
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Earliest known newspaper coverage of Babe Ruth, "a St Mary's schoolboy," Baltimore, April 4, 1914. $6,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Franklin, Benjamin. <i>The Independent Whig.</i> First Magazine Published in America, Philadelphia: Keimer, 1723-4. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Smith, Joseph. <i>The Book of Mormon.</i> Palmyra: Printed by E.B. Grandin for the Author, 1830. First printing. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Last Words of Joseph Smith. Autograph Letter Signed from a Mormon disciple, conveying a contemporary account of the Prophet's final words, Nauvoo, July 27, 1844. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> John Brown's Body. Autograph Letter Signed from the daughter of John Brown attempting to arrange the return of her father's body, North Elba, Essex Co, NY, November 29, 1859. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Powell Expedition. Autograph diary of Rhodes C. Allen kept during the Powell Expedition of 1868, June 29, 1868 - November 16, 1868. $20,000 to $40,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Walt Whitman. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> First edition, first issue, SIGNED in block letters by Whitman. 1855. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Isaac Newton's copy of John Greave's <i>Pyramidographia,</i> London, 1646. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Colonel John Mosby. Robert E. Lee's autograph letter to Samuel Cooper reporting on Mosby's exploits, with Cooper's autograph note ordering his appointment to Major.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Gyula Halasz Brassai. Large archive of autograph and typed letters, over 260, to his family including his wife Gilberte, 1947-1978. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Archive of drawings and letters from Harper Lee to Charles Carruth, including an inscribed first edition of <i>To Kill a Mockingbird.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. 1578-1657. <i>De motu cordis & sanguinis in animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Leiden: Joannis Maire, 1639. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> BERENGARIO DA CARPI, GIACOMO. 1460-1530. <i>Isagogae breves perlucide ac uberrimae in Anatomiam humani corporis.</i> Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 15 July 1523. $15,000 to $25,000
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Michel de Nostradamus, <i>The True Prophecies or Prognostications,</i> first complete edition in English, London, 1672. $2,500 to $3,500.
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