If you want to thrive, be ready to turn the page

 - 
07/19/2011

If you read this blog regularly, then you know I work part-time at Borders Books. Or at least, I did. Borders announced yesterday that it is  liquidating the entire chain, something we all knew—but didn't really believe–would happen. That went double at our store which has long been one of the top 2 or 3 performers in the entire chain.

Theories abound as to what went wrong, but those of us on the floor could tell you it's probably a combination of problems that led to Borders demise. One thing I can point to: the large number of people buying from the Internet. I can't tell you how many people people would stand there, book in hand, and tell me they were ordering it online  so they could save $3.

But the book business, like the HME business, has undergone seismic shifts and only companies that are nimble and able to adapt quickly and creatively to changes will survive. I often talk to providers about how, once they are gone, there will be a lack of access to products and services. We talk about how shopping on the 'Net doesn't always offer the same personal touch that a bricks-and-mortar location does.

I talked to provider Greg Jamian recently about how the Internet, a few years ago, was a bigger cause of concern for him. That is, until people started realizing that sometimes it's worth it to pay a bit more for good service. I hear that from a lot of providers, actually.

What I am interested to see is what happens next. Will the few remaining indie bookstores in the Portland area (which I have long admired) thrive? Will more people turn to Amazon or e-readers, as is being suggested by experts weighing in on this story? Will people stop reading entirely (as some particularly pessimistic folks have posited)?

Or will there be a backlash, as others have suggested? I for one, have no interest in ebooks. I also like to browse a book before buying it. I recently borrowed a book from the library after reading a description that made it seem up my alley. I hated it from page 1, and gave up by the third chapter.

As with books, there are some HME items that you have to check out in person. The challenge will be convincing the customer to buy it there in the store, rather than going online.

And that's the bottom line.

Theresa Flaherty