Borders, the Michigan-based bookstore chain, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this morning. The company says it will close 200 underperforming stores and "shed much of its staff." Borders Group President Mike Edwards said, "It has become increasingly clear that in light of the environment of curtailed customer spending... and the company's lack of liquidity, Borders Group does not have the capital resources it needs to be a viable competitor." In other words, Amazon has really taken a bite of out their business.
The business was launched by brothers Tom and Louis Borders in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Wall Street Journal reports, "Those familiar with the retailer during the 1980s describe a company focused on serious, quality works. Keith Taylor, who worked at Borders from 1981 to 1989, says that would-be employees had to take a test before being hired that focused on their knowledge of writers." Taylor said, "I still remember the one I got wrong: If you were to look for a book about Louis Sullivan, what section would you take a customer to? People would drive 1,000 miles to spend a weekend in Ann Arbor and buy books from us. The front display cases in our store were from university presses. We were real snobs, but we made a lot of money."
There are five Borders stores in Manhattan and four in Queens and Staten Island; it's unclear if any of them are considered underperforming. Update: The stores that are closed are 461 Park Ave, 100 Broadway and 576 Second Ave., all in Manhattan.
One commenter on the Times' Dealbook blog wrote, "As a victim of a recent Barnes & Noble workforce reduction I take no pleasure in seeing Borders teetering on the brink. B&N was clearly ahead of Borders (and, as with selling physical books on the web, behind Amazon) on moving to ebooks, but even if B&N manages to stay competitive by throwing all its resources behind Nookbooks I foresee the same withering away of bricks-and-mortar stores over the next few years. It may not be as sudden and dramatic as it'll be with Borders under Chapter 11, but it'll happen -- and, I'll wager, with at least the same percentage of stores Borders will be closing. It'll help the independent bookstores a tad, but as the price of ereaders fall this decade ebooks will continue to grab market share. I just hope books with actual printed pages don't go the way of the LP."