Friday Coffee Chat (22)–Big Box Blunders

Is Big Box Reading in Danger?

Last week on Friday Coffee Chat I asked readers whether or not they were in book clubs. Most of you said that you would do a book club or were already in one (or even two). I thought that was a pretty interesting conversation because I expected more people to be solitary readers. Make sure you check to see if Jennifer from Girls Gone Reading put up a chat this week. If not, check out one of her awesome book reviews!

Chachic from Chachic’s Book Nook is also posting a discussion called “A Writer Only Begins a Book. A Reader Finishes It.” Make sure you head over to her blog as well after you finish here. Should be a great discussion!


This week I wanted to explore the bookish news. By now everyone knows that Borders is on the verge of filing Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. For those of you that don’t know, Chapter 11 is the bankruptcy filing for reorganization. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation filing (like Circuit City and Linens n’ Things filed several years ago and are no longer in business). So, Borders is looking at reorganizing the company in hopes to save itself and pay off its creditors. To do this, they are thinking of closing between 150-200 stores to lessen its debt load. Barnes & Noble is also having its own financial troubles (though it is currently much better off than Borders) as is Waterstones in the UK. I won’t bore you with all the details. If you are interested in reading some articles, here are a few:

Most bloggers I know prefer buying from indie stores and might be applauding the demise of big box reading. I myself try to buy from independent bookstores as well, but I also admit that I do buy from Borders and Amazon as well. When this story broke that Borders was likely to file Chapter 11 this week, I have to say that I got a little sad. While big box stores have been the bane of existence for many passionate readers, I couldn’t help but think that if more bookstores close, there is less opportunity for people to become readers. I admit that I even like browsing the big box stores because they have SO many books (There….I said it! I like going into big box stores!). Also, many smaller towns may only have a Barnes & Noble or a Borders and without it, their browsing would either be confined to the internet or driving to another town/city to be able to browse physical books.

People may say that if it weren’t for the big box stores that there would be more choice of independent bookstores to go to. That may be true, but at this point it’s sort of water under the bridge. It’s already happened so the only thing that we can do as a society is to change our policies to limit oligarchical business practices. We as a society may also need to rethink how much we are willing to pay for books to keep bookstores running. I know, I know…I am asking people to fight the Law of Supply and Demand. However, if we want more options with independent bookstores, we should be willing to pay higher prices. I am guilty of not buying books unless on sale or if I have a coupon. Only recently was I more loyal to independent bookstores. I even utilize the library quite a bit now to save money. I think most of us are guilty of doing those things because it is in fact The Law of Supply and Demand. That’s why it’s a “Law” and not a “Hypothesis”. People are willing (and able for that matter) to buy more goods and services if they are offered at lower prices. That’s just a cold, hard fact.

I will admit that a huge reason why this problem of failing business is as bad as it is, is because of the extended recession that is occurring worldwide. People aren’t purchasing luxury items like books (*gasp* I know…I just called books a luxury item) because they are trying to keep a roof over their head and put food on the table. When they do seek out their luxury items, they look for them at a discount and end up at places like or (or .uk) because it’s so much cheaper than buying from an independent store. I have to say that I don’t judge those people for making those choices since I myself have made these choices. Our choices have had the unfortunate side effect of reducing our choices of places to shop—but it’s been out of necessity for many, and the big box stores are to blame as well. Poor business practices by Borders and B&N let gain a huge market share in the book industry which I believe is the majority reason why both stores are struggling as much as they are (I can’t speak for Waterstones as I just heard about them for the first time several months ago).

So what is the solution to help failing bookstores? Should we be happy that big box stores aren't doing as well as they have in previous years and hope that this will mean a resurgence of independent bookstores? Do you think the book industry as a whole will suffer as a result of lagging sales or is it bound to make a comeback? I am not sure about the answers to these questions, but I do feel a little bit sad that it's possible that there will be less bookstores in my area to choose from in the very near future. I love reading and feel a sense of camaraderie when I see another person with a book. Even though some may hate the big box bookstore, I ultimately just want to see people reading and hope that we will still have a choice to go to brick-and-mortar stores in the future.

So, the questions for this week are:
  • Are you a big box buyer or a bargain shopper (used, library, discounted books, etc.) or a champion of independent bookstores?
  • What do you feel about the likely closure of 150-200 Borders bookstores across the U.S., or if you are from another country, how would you feel if that happened with your local big box bookstore?
  • What would you like to see happen in the retail book industry when the economy recovers? Be utopian or realistic…just tell me what you think!
  • Do you think the closure of big box stores will hurt future readers? Will we be less likely to read as a society or are we just moving toward newer technology like e-books?

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