Sunday, 11 September 2011


The bookshelves are wooden skeletons now, and even those were carried out the door. Books too, of course, with hard and soft covers, remember those? DVDs, calendars, and the twilight end to everything else that used to fill the Borders off U.S. 95 was picked through and sold at a fraction of their outdated prices Friday as the bankrupt big box retailer prepares to close the Coeur d'Alene store for good this weekend. "Everything selling," General Manager Sean Thornton said watching customers sift through the remaining inventory. "Almost down to the carpet." Deals? You bet. What's left is marked up to 80 or 90 percent off. But there was little glee for those treasure hunting. Borders, which operated 1,249 Borders and Waldenbooks stores at its peak in 2003, is a casualty of the Internet industry - a fast-paced, versatile vehicle that gives consumers so many options, so quickly, book stores and printed media are all but obsolete. Customers didn't know what's in store for the future, they said, but they were sure Borders' closing is likely only one domino to fall in the digital future. "You may have to go to Oxford or the Smithsonian if you want to find books in the future," said Tim Tucker, a 15-year Borders customer, filling his arms full of old-fashioned reading material Friday. "They didn't change fast enough," he said. "And it's change or die." Death to a bookstore looks like walls full of empty bookshelves roped off in Coeur d'Alene's store, with the remaining inventory centered in the middle, where dozens of people stand close together to see what's left. At the front of the store, shelves were disassembled, and people, some with other businesses, carried those out for their own use. Janette Moote, retired and mother of at least one daughter who uses an iPad to read, remembers when her town in California got its first Borders years ago. "It was fantastic," she said. "We use to have a room in our house called a library." Now, seeing the remains of her once favorite store, "is like losing a member of the family," she said. Kindle, iPad, e-books, blogs; those are the terms of the reading future. It's true. The city of Coeur d'Alene, for example, allocated money for its library for e-books in 2012 budget. You didn't see that five years ago. Still, there are people who prefer the feel of turning the paper page in their hand. Count Erika Bliss, 22, and Shay Ward, 33, as two of those. They said the old-fashioned feeling, whether at home or in a book store, is comfortable, akin to relaxing in a nice coffee shop. "It's sad," Bliss, a science fiction fan, said in the nearly empty aisles. "I'd never thought they'd go out." But take one look at Nick Wages, comic book collector and all-around reader a few aisles away from Bliss and Ward, and you can see how it happened. On Wages' cell phone is an app that allows him to scan a book's bar-code right in the store, and instantly the cheapest price for that product is found online and around town. He demonstrates with a book originally priced at $17. The Internet shows him that copy for $2.69 after a two-second search. "That's kind of what killed it right there," he said. For Thornton, manager at the local Borders store which opened in 2003, watching the end, and knowing that his 24 employees have to move on, is crushing. "It's been emotionally crippling," he said. But he said he loved the run. If every Borders had been half as successful as his local branch, the company wouldn't have had to file for bankruptcy in February, he said. And the landlord has had possible tenants interested in moving into the new location, so the big footprint of what used to be a book store shouldn't stand empty forever. But he's sad. And his customer are too. "They've been crushed by it," he said of his repeat buyers. "I find we're consoling them more than they're consoling us." Borders will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday before it closes for good. Everything, just about down to the carpet, must go.



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