Archive for the ‘Bookshops’ Category

Chances are there’s a Borders store near you that’s either closing or will close within the next year. Fortunately, the store in my town will remain open – for now – though another location 15 minutes north of here isn’t quite so lucky.

I’ve visited the unfortunate Borders store three times since they put up the deadly yellow “Store Closing Sale!” and “Everything Must Go!” banners, and each time felt a bit like a vulture. Every time I visit I’m effectively picking the bones of the carcass that was once a bustling store. And it’s a distinctly cringe-worthy feeling I don’t like at all.

I know it’s inevitable the store must rid itself of inventory, but at the same time it’s just so sad. I’ve spent a lot of time there since it went up, though, admittedly I preferred the Barnes & Noble down the street (better selection, more comfy chairs, more neutral decor), but I still spent a lot of time at Borders, partly because I’m a member of their rewards program and received regular coupons, because I spent that much there (DID I EVER!). There’s another reason I’m shocked it’s closing, that I wasn’t able to keep them in the black with my purchases alone.

But it’s not just the local closings that’s bothersome. It’s more the fact Borders is one of the two book mega-chains, the brick and mortar biggies that were responsible for putting the independents – with few exceptions – out of business years ago. Now they’re going bankrupt, struggling to keep themselves alive by streamlining, cutting jobs and closing less profitable stores. So, without the assurance Borders will make it, everything now hinges on Barnes & Noble. And it’s having its share of problems, too.

Why? I see the reason as two-fold: first, GIANT retailer Amazon is able to undercut the prices of all brick and mortar stores, and second, the spectre of eBooks that require no manufacturing, no shipping and the convenience of instant delivery. Oh, and they’re generally cheaper than regular books.

So, what will happen to books once eBooks eventually take over? Or will they? Look at the music industry. Once there were Victrolas, then reel-to-reel and vinyl records. Along came 8-track tapes (a travesty!), cassettes, then CDs. Now, iPods and electronic downloads.

Recording artists are also having their works pirated, downloaded for absolutely free online, cutting their profits to the bone. Once books go all electronic the same will happen with them, you can bet on it. Writers who’re unable to live off writing proceeds alone will have that much less incentive to write – assuming they’re not in it for the love of the art itself. What will happen to the publishing industry? As goes music, soon will follow books.

Best case scenario, used book stores will thrive. Those of us who covet the written book will be able to get our fix buying lower-priced, pre-owned if you will, books. And there’s always print on demand, too. Not a bad option, at least if they’re priced reasonably.

For the sake of disclosure, though I love books I own a Sony eReader. I even have the Kindle app on my iPhone. And, when Kindles are given away for free – which is rumored to start happening by the end of this year – I’ll take one of those, as well. I do buy eBooks. I love the portability of them, the fact I can load up on library and bookstore books, carrying a virtual library with me wherever I go.

So, have I stopped buying books? Not by a long shot! Instead I’ve been buying way too much, between eBooks and book books. Not the best financial strategy, but I’m putting the brakes on that right now. Right. Now. Or, after I’ve bought the last batch of cheap books at the doomed Borders store that’s a mere 15 minutes away.


None of us can predict what will eventually happen, but the writing is on the wall. Resist though we may, this is already in motion, such a strong tide can’t be stemmed. All well and good to try to fight it, if it makes a person feel better, but in the end logic, and economics, will prove the big publishers get their way. They’re already struggling. Tell me how the prospect of making larger profits on eBooks, which don’t have to be manufactured and shipped, won’t keep ailing publishers afloat. Or at least assure the survival of the most powerful of them. There’s no way around it.

I’ve posted a lot re: eBooks, and with a great deal of passion, but from here on I see there’s not much point in denying the inevitable. The demise of Borders is a dire event. The bell is tolling for bookstores.  Soon we’ll be left with just Amazon, which I predict will still be standing when the mega-chains are shuttered. Where Amazon goes, there goes publishing.

Keep your eye on the Amazon basket. That’s where the remaining eggs lie. But this librarian/book reviewer/manic reader predicts what will be left, when the dust settles, are eBooks and print on demand. What will happen with picture books, graphic novels, etc., is a different kettle of fish. Likewise, children’s books. Maybe specialty publishers will continue to exist for those. But this may turn out to be the exception to the rule.

Probably not what you wanted to hear, and it’s definitely not what I like to say. I’ll take no pleasure in “I told you so!” in this case. And nothing would make me happier than being proven wrong. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

The question is when, not if. And it may be a gradual shift, as in cassettes and albums giving way to CDs. Like LPs, maybe books will enjoy a renaissance, for the novelty. But I’m afraid to say it’s not looking good for lovers of the book. Never mind I already own more books than I can read in my lifetime. In several lifetimes, I think. I’ll mourn the passing of books regardless.

Just let me be wrong. That’s what I hope.

Current list of Borders closures.


Of course I want you to say the library is your primary source for books. I sort of have a vested interest in that. While we’re at it, let’s include music CDs, DVDs and books on CD, all things you can get for FREE at your public library.

But sometimes, I know, one would like a personal copy of the materials listed above. And when you do, how often do you visit one of the big chain stores? How much of an impact will it have for you when those eventually go away. And they are. Rapidly.

Borders is a prime example. It’s in serious trouble, in the last stages of treading water before it sinks to the sea bottom. Today I found this article on the presumed reason for its demise, and this is the synopsis:

“In 2001, just as Internet commerce was beginning to thrive, Borders made the mistake of turning its online sales over to Amazon, a competitor, which gained vital customer information such as purchasing habits. “It’s unheard-of,” book publishing expert Al Greco said. “It’s as if Coca-Cola asked Pepsi to distribute Coca-Cola.”

Sure enough, Amazon was able to lure away Borders customers with its slick website functionality, especially the widget that matched a buyer’s choices to other commensurate book titles. By the time Borders finally launched its own online service in 2008, it was way too late to catch up to Amazon and even Barnes & Noble, though that chain is also in trouble.”

Who’s running Borders, anyway? Shouldn’t they hire people with more than half a brain?

Book GIANT Amazon undercuts pretty  much everyone else in price. They seem to have pretty much everything you can think of, including snack bars (I reviewed one for them once!) and electronics. So Borders decided to partner with them, sharing a website?

Really, really bright move. Duh.

I love buying books cheaply, but I also love browsing in actual stores. Sure, it’s fun hopping around Amazon, following their suggested reads and what-not, but it has nowhere near the experience of hanging out at a bookstore, having a latte while you read the first couple chapters of a book you’re considering buying. And, sure, Amazon usually allows you to read some sample pages of their books. But where’s my latte?!

Then there’s the feeling of companionship being around other bookish people, quietly co-existing alongside each other. And I personally love the sound of pages turning. Maybe it’s associated with bedtime stories as a child, but it’s a sound that soothes me. Can Amazon provide that?

Seeing these big chain stores failing is tough. Will Barnes & Noble be far behind? Not far, according to some articles I’ve been reading. They’re in deep trouble, too. With Borders on life support shouldn’t Barnes & Noble be happily taking up the slack? With Amazon’s siren cry apparently not.

The public library will soon be the one left standing. That’s a great, great thing, don’t get me wrong. Still, the loss of any book outlet is a bad thing. It only contributes to the potential demise of the book in general, taking away another source from which people browse or buy books.

How many times have I heard a patron come in and ask for a book he or she just saw at Borders, unwilling to pay the cover price? Answer: several. And that’s partly because their books are arranged by subject rather than the Dewey decimal system, making browsing very easy. And the more browsing someone does, the more unexpected, serendipitous finds.

So, to survive do public libraries need to abandon Dewey and go with the same floor plan as big box bookstores? Kind of makes you think. And should libraries put in coffee bars?  Some already have, but not all can afford it. But for those that can, will that be a good extra draw for people used to drinking coffee while perusing books?

It’s something to consider during these tough economic times, preferably before more libraries are lost and the profession takes any more hits. After all, I never imagined bookstores would just go away *poof!* like that. Kind of makes you wonder what’s next, doesn’t it?


Women & Children First

5233 N. Clark St.

Chicago, IL 60640

Tel: 773.769.6729

Women & Children First is one of the more fortunate indies. In danger of having to close its doors forever, they decided to fight back, opening a MySpace site and rallying to their own very worthy cause. Due to their own efforts they’ve increased sales enough to keep their doors open for now, but as with any business effort it’s crucial their sales continue on the current upward trend.

As far as bookstores go, WCF has a huge heart. Below I’ve copied information from their website highlighting how much they’ve given back to the community. They are to be commended for everything they do.

I’m featuring them today in order to help promote them as widely as possible. If you’re in the Chicago area I hope you’ll drop in and have a browse at the store. If not, you can visit their website.

From their website:

About W&CF and the Women’s Voices Fund

The Women’s Voices Fund was established in November, 2005, to help support feminist programming at Women & Children First (see Vision and Mission statements below). Contributions are most appreciated. Contributions of $50 or more are tax deductible and are processed by the Crossroads Fund. To receive a tax deduction on this level of contribution, please make checks payable to Crossroads Fund. Non-deductible contributions should be made payable to the Women’s Voices Fund. Both deductible and non-deductible contributions can also be made by Visa or Master Card. All contributions should be sent directly to Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60640. They can also be processed by phone at 773-769-9299.

Women Voices Fund Vision:

The Women’s Voices Fund will ensure that events featuring women writers, fostering discussion of feminist issues and culture, and nurturing children’s delight in books will continue to play a vital role in Chicago’s intellectual, literary, and political life.

Women’s Voices Fund Mission:

The Women’s Voices Fund, a project of Women & Children First Bookstore and a grantee of the Crossroads Fund, raises money to help sustain and develop an ongoing program series focused on women’s lives, ideas, and work. Women & Children First, a unique resource in the Chicago community and the only venue to offer regular programming with such a focus, has provided the sole financial support for this series for over 25 years. Outside support through the Women’s Voices Fund is crucial to guaranteeing that a wide and diverse range of women’s voices and the best voices in children’s literature continue to be heard.

Our History and Purpose:

Women & Children First began in a modest storefront in 1979. Over the years we’ve moved twice and recently expanded in our current location into an adjoining storefront. We’re in a northside Chicago neighborhood known for its diversity, lesbian-friendliness, women-owned businesses and community spirit. Our staffers include teachers, graduate students, professional writers and storytellers, political activists, board members, and poets. Each of us is a reader, a feminist, and a bookseller. Our purpose in beginning the store 20 years ago was to promote the work of women writers and to create a place in which all women would find books reflecting their lives and interests. We strive to do this in an atmosphere in which all are respected, valued, and well-served. That is our purpose still, online as well as in the store.

We are one of the largest feminist bookstores in the country, stocking more than 30,000 books by and about women, children’s books for all ages, and the best of lesbian and gay fiction and non-fiction. Anything we don’t have in stock we can usually get in a few days’ time, even if it’s a title outside our specialty. We also carry music, videos, magazines and pride products.

A Gem in Dundee: Steeplejack Books

Posted: August 11, 2006 in Bookshops


Having the day off yesterday I was free to roam the streets. Book vendors everywhere generally find this a windfall, but seldom do I have a truly new place to rave about from my ramblings. After seeing this place I knew I’d have to share the information on my blogs. It’s just heaven for a book lover!

Steeplejack Books in West Dundee looks like the idyllic sort of charming bookshop you’d find in a small village in Britain. What’s more, they have managed to pack an incredible amount of quality stock into its somewhat modest space. Steeplejack sells used and new books, and can order anything you could possibly need. They’re a full-service independent bookshop located on Main Street in West Dundee.

In addition to the thoughtfully selected books themselves, they also sell those wonderful moleskine notebooks I personally use for all manner of journaling, from book reviewing to travel and beyond. I wouldn’t be without my moleskines.


Here’s a photo of what I managed to find there:


Couldn’t walk out empty-handed, after all…

If you’re in the area please do consider popping by this bookshop. There’s a very good chance you’ll find me ferretting in the corner if you do!

Steeplejack Books
125 West Main Street
West Dundee, IL