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Goodbye letter to Borders employees spills secrets of bookbuying trade

In response to the Goodbye letter from Borders employee(s)(?) spills secrets of bookselling trade as reported on boingboing.net.

Things We Never Told Bookstores


  • We love books, yes, it's true. But we hate bookstores as much as we wanted to love them. For every delight and surprise there were two disappointments. But we kept coming back.
  • Amazon is better. It's cheaper and they have a better selection. Get over it.
  • Well, come to think of it, you are over it. You've gone out of business.
  • Let's take a look at what kind of business you were in, shall we? One word. Consignment.
  • You had decades, literally decades, to innovate, to try something different. But no. You just stayed as a consignment shop for pulp from publishers.
  • When after fifteen years of Amazon you still didn't catch on that it was time to try something new.
  • You're like that scene in Deep Impact where the father and the newsanchor daughter stand on the beach and look at the rapidly-approaching 1000-ft tidal wave and do nothing. If you knew the meteor was gonna hit the ocean, do you ever think that being at sea-level at the shore was maybe the very worst place to be in the world at that moment?
  • When we walked up to the counter and you asked us "Did you find everything okay?" of course we didn't! Don't insult our intelligence. Your store never had much inventory, mostly crap. Usually we didn't find anything we were looking for but because we're suckers for books, we found some we weren't looking for and had. to. buy. them. anyway. It's what kept you in business.
  • But actually it's worse than that. Bookstores suffered from the same problem as Blockbuster video stores. Really hard to find stuff, storing them in shelves that go all the way to the floor. How frequently do you think the thing you are looking for is at the bottom shelf, and you walked right by it and didn't notice it? Really frequently. #fail.
  • List price? You really think you have a viable business when you charge list price for a book?
  • The "bargain" tables are an insult. $1 remaindered coffee table photo books on sports figures, cats, dogs, celebrities, and the national parks are a waste of space and we still we spend tons of time rifling through every damn book on display and we hate you for it.
  • Other customers get in the way. There's always somebody curled up on the floor right in the aisle where your book is.
  • When you tell us "You could have saved X dollars and Y cents" if we'd only purchased using your store's loyalty card, we want to tell you, "You could have charged X dollars and Y cents less and maybe I would have bought more books, you idiots" but we're polite so we didn't.
  • We always had as much contempt for you as you had for us the customers. We come, we shop, and we witness the slow inevitable decay of a wonderful, age-old institution that had every chance in the world to keep up with the times but thought the answer was to embed mini Starbucks in every store and sell stationery, Godiva chocolates, and other crap instead of books, books, and more books.
  • Most of the authors you had for in-person appearances and book signings and readings were as boring and uninteresting as us.
  • Oh, and there was nothing worse than walking into your store and seeing an author sitting behind a little draped table with their book perched on a stand besides them, and no customers or fans are anywhere to be seen. Did you not see This is Spinal Tap?
  • When you were at your best, you were curators of a world of knowledge. We came for this, to be enlightened, to be taken on a journey of discovery to new ideas, new perspectives, new stories. But you were not always at your best. Putting Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck and all the other ignorant hustlers' books on prominent display just because the publisher paid you to put them there doesn't mean you should have done that. That's not curation, that's the road to idiocracy. And you helped pave it just as much as CNN and Fox.
  • Yes, we did notice your dwindling inventory over the years. At the same time we noticed Amazon's growing inventory. The gap got so big and you did nothing about it. You had every chance in the world. But you ran your store like you were selling groceries, letting the publishers pay for placement and winding up being dependent on that model instead of figuring out how to stay vibrant, stay interesting, stay ahead of Amazon, offer things that Amazon could never offer. Now we're stuck with Amazon, and now they're killing books outright. Now we have to lease DRM-laden data files that reside in a "cloud". Great.

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