Book lovers everywhere will lament the demise of Borders, which announced that it will cease operations by the end of September. The chain had been trying to reorganize following its Chapter 11 filing in February, but failed to find a buyer and could no longer access essential working capital in this credit-scarce economy.
The loss will be felt. Shuttered Borders stores are already a frequent and depressing sight in many cities. Now the remaining 10,700 staffers will join the ranks of the unemployed, which will hurt in an economy that could only generate 18,000 new jobs last month.
But it goes deeper than that. As noted in the Wall Street Journal article linked above, the company’s failure is also a setback for publishers, authors and readers alike:
The loss of Borders may also make it more difficult for new writers to be discovered. “The liquidation of Borders is an irreplaceable loss of a big part of the book-discovery ecosystem,” said Michael Norris, a senior analyst at Simba Information, a unit of MarketResearch.com “Thousands of people whose job consisted of talking up and selling books will eventually being doing something else, and that’s bad for authors, agents, and everyone associated with the value chain in books.”
On a personal note, I always enjoyed the Borders experience. The stores were conveniently located and offered a well-lit, well-stocked and cheerful environment, with knowledgeable staff who clearly liked what they were doing. Like many consumers, I fell out of the habit of responding to their tempting promotions as the economic malaise of the past decade accelerated.
It would be unfair to blame the Obama administration for the missteps of the company, which included over-expansion and a faltering approach to the emerging e-book market. But as the company’s current president noted, the headwinds in the current economy make the job of restructuring a company especially daunting. Anemic economic growth, high unemployment, nervous consumers and a credit draught all work against institutional survival in troubled times. And the Obama team shares a good deal of blame for that.