January 6, 2011

MEGAN MCARDLE: Bye, Bye Borders. “This is when the communitarians start looking for a government rule that will make it harder for people to buy books online; the environmentalists complain about all the energy wasted on shipping; and the moderate nostalgists start urging people to support their local bookstore. But I’ll go by a combination of revealed preference and introspection: the world may be better off without Borders, even though I (and everyone else who has stopped shopping there) likes the idea of its existence.”

Borders’ problem may not just be technology, though, but politics. And unions, maybe. . . .

UPDATE: Reader Franklin Stroble writes:

Regarding Ms. McArdle’s column on Borders upcoming demise, several years back Borders removed copies of “Free Inquiry” magazine from the shelves several years back because it showed a “Mohammed” cartoon on the cover.


Not sure whether that counts as bad politics, or simple cowardice, but I can’t help but believe that the corporate thinking that went into that decision informed their other decisions as well.


ANOTHER UPDATE: A Knoxville reader emails:

I was just thinking, 2 days ago as I pulled out of the shopping center across from West Town Mall, if anyone even shops at “Borders” anymore, as it’s right there on the corner. Apparently not.

I maintain, as I shared with you before, that the intellectual myopia that afflicts almost EVERY brick/mortar bookseller has contributed to their demise. The ability to find books that reflect anything other than the liberal / elite / intellectual worldview is nigh on impossible in all bookstores. The marketing that is given to the “correct thinking” authors is noticeable to all with eyes to see it. I find the response ranging from outright ignorance of or disdain from employees, when asked about books by authors like Bill Buckley, etc., to be consistent and deliberate. “Open minds” from liberals who “know better”? Don’t even think about it. They’re all about ideas, as long as they are the “right” ideas. Pheugh.

No tears from me at their passing.

Even one of my lefty colleagues commented a while back about the overwhelming display of Bush-bashing books right at the entrance. Stuff like that does have an impact.

MORE: Reader Jon Shore writes: “I recently flew from DC to San Diego, finishing the book I was reading on the way. The only book store within walking distance from my hotel was a Borders so I sucked it up and paid the hefty $18 for a paperback on, funny enough, budgeting and finance. About a week later I bought my Amazon Kindle and I’ve never been happier.” Yeah, I just don’t go to bookstores much any more. Like Megan, I like the idea of going to bookstores, but I find Amazon better. And while you can’t get everything, or even nearly everything, on Kindle, you can get a lot. For traveling and knocking around I prefer the Kindle App on my iPod Touch, though the Kindle is better in bright sunlight.

Meanwhile, another reader emails:

Unlike your Knoxville reader, I just haven’t seen the blatant partisanship I’ve heard about. Like your lefty friend, I tend to pass on the political polemics (unless looking for a particular book) so I don’t pay a lot of attention to the political sections on display, and maybe that’s why I don’t notice it. Still, every time I pass that section, I seem to see Ann Coulter’s book or some other “conservative” book I’ve heard about.

Granted, I think they’re probably still outnumbered by the “liberal” books (Stephen Colbert and Denis O’Leary always seem prominent, though for the life of me I can’t figure out why), but they certainly aren’t hidden, and are usually displayed as prominently as the lefty books next to them. I don’t know, maybe it’s just my local store (it’s most certainly not in a “conservative” area) but I just don’t see it.

Depends on where you are, perhaps — or maybe they’ve improved on that score over the past few years. Too late? And there’s this from Megan’s comments:

The leftist bias in bookstores struck me as almost universal while I was living in Northern California. The bookstore on Haight Street (!) refused to stock anything by Thomas Sowell, yet, right at the checkout were stacks and stacks of Chomsky nonsense (“impulse buys”). Printers’ Inc. in Palo Alto was no better, since it was run by dedicated feminists who devoted shelf after shelf to the latest effort from A New Feminist Publisher Doomed To Fail. I came to think of them as propaganda organs just like the MSM. Used book stores were a lot better, for some reason.

Yes, the chain bookstores were often more open than the independents. And another from Megan’s comments:

For me, the leftward slant of so many retailers in the book market sector was the main reason I stopped supporting them with my purchasing dollars. I read more non-political material than I do political material, and I get all the politics I can stomach online, thanks. I don’t need to deal with it at the book store when trying to purchase books and/or periodicals. Also, I’m highly suspicious of anyone or any organisation so manacled to their “principles” (note: more often than not that’s just a euphemism for biases, political or otherwise) that they won’t sell me something which is perfectly legal and legitimate simply because it runs afoul of their delicate sensibilities.

Is this — like much of the newspaper industry — a case of the leftist 20% of the populace chasing a way a lot of potential customers over politics? Or is it mostly just technology and convenience?

STILL MORE: Reader Gary Rice has thoughts on the sudden onslaught of Borders-nostalgia:

Re; Borders…. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that Borders and Barnes & Noble were the bad guys? Corporate behemoths destroying the local independent bookstore with their Wal Mart like pricing models ? Wasn’t there even a Tom Hanks romance movie about this exact subject?

So Amazon comes along with a better pricing model and now we are all supposed to mourn liberal Borders’ demise? It is a wonder these people remember how to read, because they sure can’t remember anything else….


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