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Is Borders heading for its final chapter?

After a series of competitive blunders and missteps in the last decade, the bookstore chain is under siege, cutting staff, shuttering stores, shaking up top management and flirting with bankruptcy.

February 04, 2011|By Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times

At the time, Borders prided itself on providing an eclectic selection that would better appeal to the serious book reader and strove to be less "cookie-cutter" than other large bookstores, said Gary Balter, an analyst with Credit Suisse.

Amazon was able to lure those serious readers away from Borders by prompting them with suggestions of related books based on their purchase. "That was their target customer," Balter said. "If you're a serious book reader you can now go online, see similar books and you don't have to go through shelves.… It's more convenient."

In 2008, the company ended its relationship with Amazon and rolled out its own online sales operation, but it trailed behind the more seasoned online operations of Barnes & Noble and Amazon, Greco said.

Rosen, of Silver Lake, said he had tried to use Borders' online store in the past but found navigating it "awkward." By contrast, he said, Amazon.com was "quick and easy."

Borders' precarious situation took another hit with the emergence of the electronic reader. In November 2007, Amazon released its e-reader, the Kindle, taking both superstores by surprise with the new technology. When Barnes & Noble came along with its own e-reader, the Nook, in November 2009, Borders still had no answer, Balter said.

It was not until last July that Borders formed a partnership with a Canadian firm to distribute e-readers and launched an e-book store.

Dominique Morris, 25, a freelance journalist, was shopping at the Glendale location on a recent afternoon with a friend. As she headed for the exit, she stopped to check out the e-reader, which was prominently displayed by the front door. "I didn't even know they had one until now," said Morris, who shops at the store about twice a month.

Greco said he expected the company to seek bankruptcy protection soon. "It's pretty clear they will file for bankruptcy; it's just a question of when," he said. "Borders at one time was an unbelievably impressive bookstore chain — people loved it. The day they go into bankruptcy will not be a happy day for publishers, authors and readers."

stephen.ceasar@latimes.com

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