The closure of Borders last month left physical and figurative holes across the country.
The company’s closing not only led to 399 store vacancies nationwide, but it also put a large financial burden on the publishing industry. Several publishing companies in the region have experienced the effects of the bookstore chain’s closure on the industry and individual businesses. Despite losing one of their main customers, the publishers are confident they’ll bounce back from the loss.
David Swan, sales director at Chelsea, Mich.-based publishing company Sleeping Bear Press, said while it is too early to determine the publisher’s monetary losses due to Borders closing, the publishing industry has lost a significant number of dedicated workers.
“Borders had some really fine booksellers and book advocates,” Swan said. “Losing them and knowing that the market is tight for places for them to find work is a great loss to the culture — the book culture.”
The once-flourishing book chain announced its liquidation on July 18 and subsequently closed its flagship location at 612 East Liberty St. on Sept. 9.
Though the Borders closure has put a dent in the industry, Swan said Sleeping Bear Press has long had strong relationships with independent bookstores and hopes former Borders customers will continue to buy their books through alternative sellers.
“It’s heartening to see that a number of independent bookstores have opened since Borders has closed its doors,” Swan said, specifically referring to a group of Borders employees in California who bought their former place of employment and are in the process of opening their own bookstore.
When asked whether he thinks independent bookstores will thrive in a post-Borders market, Swan said he has confidence in book retail.
“I sell books for a living, so I’m charged with being eternally optimistic,” he said.
Jim Edwards, publisher and CEO at Ann Arbor Editions, said his company had a “fantastic” relationship with Borders, but it wasn’t always sure about the chain’s long-term security.
Before Borders went out of business, Ann Arbor Editions published books produced by Borders. Edwards explained that while Ann Arbor Editions has always made a small share of its revenue from independent bookstores, it relied on Borders as a large source of business.
Foreseeing Borders’s financial decline starting about two years ago, the company began to diversify its sales and marketing strategies through increasing online sales and the use of social media. Edwards added that though sales are not as substantial as they previously were, Ann Arbor Editions is a “healthier” company after Borders’s collapse.
“The uncertainty of (the) economic realities of Borders is no longer part of our day-to-day decisions,” Edwards explained.
He noted that the publishing industry can learn a lesson from Borders’s mistakes and its subsequent closure.
“We really believe that with the closing of Borders, it’s a wake-up call to everybody in this business (that) we need to be understanding our customers and reaching them better directly, and in many ways reaching around traditional booksellers,” Edwards said.