Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Death of the Eureka, CA Borders (a.k.a. A Cruel Story)

By now you've heard the news.  Borders, that behemoth of a bookstore (sorry, superstore), is shutting its doors.  Gone will be the expensive CDs and overpriced coffee.  I say that with some satisfaction, but also some lamenting, as well.

It was bound to happen.  Borders bit off more than it could chew.  It became the 496 pound man that couldn't sustain himself anymore.  DVDs, CDs, coffee -- it strayed from selling books and went with an eReader nobody wanted.  When the first wave of closures hit, our Borders in Eureka, CA was saved, much to the relief of the Bayshore Mall where it is located.  Now, however, nothing can save it, and the vultures are circling, waiting for those 60% off signs to go up.

As much as I dislike large corporations, Borders gave our area the best selection of books, and acted as a feeder store to the local independent bookstores (including the ones that wouldn't give me a job when I needed it, which is why I tend to spend my money elsewhere).  It had all the other stores combined beat when it came to selection and price.  And books bought at Borders often ended up at our local used bookstores, a void that will be hard to fill now.  (Hell, Borders even carried my book, something the local independents didn't do.  The store bought a good deal of copies, too, with hopes I'd do an autograph signing, which I was never going to do.)

If any store came close to competing, it was Arcata's Northtown Books.  A small, eclectic bookstore that rubbed me the wrong way when I tried to get a copy of Meat is Murder.

Years ago I wanted that book, and I was doing ninety percent of my purchasing from Northtown Books.  It was one of the few reasons to actually go to Arcata, truth be told.  I had the place do special orders for me in the past, so when I called and found out the store didn't have the book in stock, I asked if it was something that could be ordered.

After much searching on the computer I was told that it could be ordered from overseas.  Northtown Books had done that for me in the past, so I requested that again and was told "no."  It was a "hassle."  I offered to pay shipping (something I didn't have to do before).  Again, I was turned down.  As if that wasn't bad enough, the clerk told me to "try the Internet."

So I did and got it at Powell's.

(A friend suggested, without knowing the store, that it was the subject matter that caused the problem.  This seems unlikely as I had ordered things of a similar nature previously, including Killing for Culture, which is a great examination of snuff films.)

I've done very little buying at Northtown Books ever since.  Now with Borders going away, that may change ... though I doubt it.  Amazon is easier, and nobody asks me for change when I'm adding stuff to my wish list.  I don't have to worry about parking, and nor do I have to have my ears assaulted with whatever New Age drivel is being played.  The closing of the superstore (not so super now) will affect me, but not as much as those who will be out of a job, and for those who lack computer access.  I'm not even sure that the local independents will get a lot more business from this, as was indicated on KIEM (our local NBC affiliate) this evening.

A few people were interviewed about the closing, and all expressed barely coherent dismay.  One person mentioned going to the local independents, but another said something I think will be what the majority of people do.  She said she would just go to Target(!), of all places, for her book fix.  Target is great if you want a recent bestseller, which some people still do, but as far as a backlist goes or for anything off the beaten path -- forget it!  Try finding Human Oddities there.  Better yet, try to get Target to order it.  And then there is Costco, another book pimp specializing in only the most mainstream of the mainstream.  Borders' business is going to be migrating to these two places.

People can jump for joy whenever a big box retailer chokes out its last breath.  This is no Wal-Mart closing, or Sam's catching on fire.  Borders, for all its Danielle Steel crap and Jelly Belly assortments, was still a haven for ideas, information and culture.  Yes, you could get the lastest insanity from Glenn Beck, (don't click on the link -- it leads to homosexual porn reviews) but you could also find true crime from Britain or books on the study of death metal.  It had something for everyone ... who reads.  To see something that go away is bittersweet at best, and a blow to readers, publishers, authors and other book retailers at worst.  There is no real winner here.  At least not in Eureka.

And I'm still pretty damn unlikely to go into Arcata for my cannibal literature fix.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a small commission, which I shall use to be all kinds of marvelous and wonderful tomes.  I promise, though, no Danielle Steel.

No comments:

Post a Comment