I’m working on posts about my book reading in 2008 and 2009, and it got me thinking about bookstores. Specifically, Borders. The company’s stock price has plummetted, and rumors have been swirling that Borders will declare bankruptcy or even go out of business altogether. As readers will recall, I got a Borders gift card for Christmas, and then I read this item in the Times about how gift card sales are down at stores where consumers think the store won’t be around long enough to use the card.
I like going to Borders (and its somewhat healthier sister, Barnes & Noble) for the same reason I enjoying going to any bookstore — the chance to browse around, people watch, read some cover flaps and back covers, and discover something I wasn’t looking for. But I find myself going less and less unless they rope me in with a huge coupon offer, in the range of thirty to forty percent off. Even then, I have to do some homework to find books I can’t find at an even better price on Amazon.
Sometimes, I prefer having the book right away, and it’s worth paying a little more for that. But that margin is shrinking. I’m sure I’ll always continue going to bookstores, especially funky used book stores. But when I go to Borders or B&N, I take a notepad to jot down books that look interesting, so I can go home and check the Amazon price. It’s probably not a sustainable business model to slash prices forty percent across the board. Maybe they should start charging a two-coffee minimum.