As Borders Closes, Book Sellers Say Business Is Changing

Print More

(Host) Soon there will be only one place in Vermont’s largest city to buy books.

The Borders bookstore is going out of business. The nationwide chain is also closing stores in  Plattsburgh, Lebanon, Keene and Burlington. Employees will lose their jobs – and book lovers will have one less place to browse.

Local booksellers say it’s a sign that the book business is changing, yet again. VPR’s Melody Bodette reports.

(Bodette) Large "store closing" signs draw customers into the Borders store on Church Street in Burlington. The café is already closed and a handwritten sign announces an upcoming sale of fixtures.

Fini Schutz of Grand Isle was looking for deals on children’s books:

(Schutz) "It’s just so difficult because everybody’s losing their jobs, you know. And where are they going to go in town like this? The fellow in there who checked me out said, well things could be worse, look what’s happening in the world. This is still difficult."

(Bodette) Justin Paluba of South Burlington walks by. He says the closing is a little sad.

(Paluba) "I like having a book store around, I guess now there’s the library and we’d have to go up the street for Barnes and Noble, which is kind of far."

(Bodette) Soon only the Crow Bookshop will be left in downtown Burlington. The store sells some publisher overstock but mainly it’s used books.  

By comparison, Montpelier has four book sellers, Brattleboro has several more. But many towns have lost their bookstores over the years, ironically because of the success of big box bookstores.

Deb Barnum ran Bygone Books in Burlington for many years, but closed the storefront several years ago:

(Barnum) "If I were 20 years younger, I’d probably want to open a store, downtown, a new bookstore. I think it’s not a good sign of a community when there aren’t bookstores. I travel a lot all over the country and you can tell a town right away by the kind of bookstores it has."

(Bodette) Now Barnum sells books online. She says book sellers have to find a niche. And Barnum says it’s the Internet that’s changing the way people shop:

(Barnum) "I don’t know what’s going to happen, to be honest there are so many balls up in the air when it comes to book selling and internet selling and now the e-books. All publishers say that the e-books are overtaking the print."

(Bodette) Barnum says people are still reading, but buying habits are changing.

Josie Leavitt agrees. Leavitt co-owns the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne. She says competition is no longer between independents and big boxes, now it’s brick and mortar versus Internet stores.

(Leavitt) "I think it’s everyone against Amazon, honestly, because they’re so big, they make it so easy, they have a really good search engine, and Amazon is right there with all the new technology. And I’m not worried about the box stores anymore, I’m worried about Amazon."

(Bodette) Leavitt says Amazon doesn’t support local communities through author events or even sales taxes, so she tries to remind customers why it’s important to shop locally.  

Leavitt says smaller books stores can adapt more quickly to a changing market than big chains. Many independent bookstores, including the Flying Pig have started selling e-books to try to meet demand:

(Leavitt) "A lot of independents now, we’re realizing that e-books are I think going to be the wave of the future, and we need to be able to provide that for our customers so you can still shop local, and still read on their e-reader."

(Bodette)  Leavitt says even though she wasn’t a Borders fan, it’s still sad to see a bookstore close, and to see people who love books lose their jobs.

For VPR News, I’m Melody Bodette.

What do you think the closing of Borders means for the larger book selling industry? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments are closed.