What’s Next For Books?

With 200 locations closing nationally, Borders Bookstore claims they are not going out of business. Rather, they are filing for a petition for reorganizational relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code to ensure long-term business amidst economic downturn, according to bordersreorganization.com.

The site is managed by The Garden City Group, Inc. (GCG), which is also the claims agent for Borders Group, Inc.

“Under Chapter 11, Borders has the opportunity to put in place a proper infusion of capital in order to operate its business while it seeks to reorganize,” GCG stated.

And though GCG claims that “Borders will continue to maintain its strong national presence,” UCI alumna Doris Su, an English major who worked at The District in Tustin Borders location in 2007, said she was not surprised the bookstore had fallen on hard times.

“There weren’t that many customers,” Su said. “It was mostly the older crowd. When it is usually endorsed by the older crowd, it’s going to die out anyway,” Su said.

Su also shared her concerns for the shifting of books from print to electronic because of economic status barring readership.

“Would it cost people more in the long run?  Not many have smart phones and computers,” Su said.

She also expressed worry for writers’ work being hacked once all online.

Despite these concerns, Su pointed out some counterarguments as well.

“At the bookstore, the only people who bought books were older, upper class [customers],” Su said. “It was not diverse at all in terms of people who bought books.  Because of the fact that [electronic books] are more accessible, in the long run it makes reading in general more accessible and understandable to a broader public.”

She went on to say that the shift from print to electronic reading would be environmentally conscious and be convenient especially for students.
Professor of English and Vice Provost for academic planning, Michael Clark, explained the shift of print to electronic reading as a change in the way people buy things.

“The production of hardback books and nice bindings and so on, clearly is going to continue, but it’s not going to have a dominant place in the market the way it has in the past,” Clark said. “It’s like CDs are disappearing because of downloading. I think it is the same sort of thing. The content people still seem to be eager for and interested in but the form is changing.”

Clark does not see the print industry in jeopardy, however.

“Historically, when new media has emerged it hasn’t replaced the old media, it has existed alongside it,” Clark said. “Television didn’t eliminate radio and the availability of downloadable movies hasn’t closed theaters. They tend to exist alongside one another and I suspect that is what will happen with print.”

Clark also gave advice to young writers emerging in the shifting industry, encouraging them to “work on the quality and the content of your work and at least hope that good writing will want to be read by people.”

“Writing is sublime,” said professor of English and director of MFA/Fiction Ron Carlson. “With the evolution from print to electronic format, the thing that doesn’t change for students is the need to write. Writing is a special kind of thinking … it’s a way of going deeper into subjects.”

Regarding such formats for books such as the e-reader, Carlson remained optimistic.

“The future of a book depends on a good book,” Carlson said. “One will find it in any format. Books are going to be here forever, and it’s not going to be this romantic notion, ‘oh I love to touch the book, I love to smell the book.’ It is a fundamentally valuable, useful, utilitarian tool.”

He expressed his uncertainty on how this shift in the print industry will affect young writers.

“We are in a period of transition and the way that intellectual property will be respected in a digital age is slowly evolving,” Carlson said.

Carlson pointed out that though Borders is closing, independent bookstores went out of business a while ago.

“[But] the book is not dead. There is an application for everything but there is no application for deep thinking,” Carlson said.