Judging Borders by the cover…

Jan 27, 2011

We all knew that Borders (BGP) was in financial troubles and it was not really a surprise when Borders’ management announced a few days ago that they had chosen Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, a well-known bankruptcy and restructuring law firm to advise on its current refinancing efforts.  They will try to keep the company out of bankruptcy court and continue to work on securing a $500 million credit line.

Borders and its main competitor, Barnes & Noble, are trying to show they can replace the sales lost to online giant Amazon.com and other web distributors. But Borders is closing hundreds of stores and needs to defer payments to publishers.

In the meantime, we also read that independent bookstores are struggling. Our local booksellers are disappearing; the survivors look empty most of the time. And according to industry insiders, the rapid advance of electronic readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook; the preponderance of chain stores; and the availability of books online at low prices are the reasons independent booksellers are going through an industry storm.

Borders is one of these major chain stores. And they are also feeling the pain…

Meg Smith, the membership and marketing officer of the American Booksellers Association, (ABA), a nonprofit trade group that promotes the interests of independently owned bookstores said that “there’s a lot of opportunity out there for businesses that figure it out properly. If bookshops become more focused and gauge what their customers want, they’ll be able to survive and thrive.”

Could Borders be the savior of the independent booksellers? The Borders clientele does not want to drive to the mall and go to their stores anymore, preferring surfing on the web and buying e-books. But there are still thousands of local bookstores that could benefit from Borders’ experience, concept and buying power. What about a Borders bookstore & café downtown? Walking distance from your office or your favorite morning spot? A place, locally owned and operated, where you can find the latest opus of the Stieg Larsson‘s Millennium trilogy, a paperback edition of the Alchimist, a travel book about France (of all places), buy your favorite magazine and even grab an expresso, all ‘powered by Borders’.

Coming closer to the ‘book buyers’, listening to what they want and empower local booksellers could be one way for Borders to regain strength.

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