Borderlands Books Goes Under, Then Resurfaces

Borderlands Books in San Francisco.

Borderlands Books in San Francisco.

San Francisco’s Borderlands Books, a favorite of sf, fantasy and horror readers, is now reconsidering its plans to close. The store had announced at the beginning of the month it could not continue in business, an economic casualty of a new law raising the minimum wage in the city. However, strong support shown by customers may translate into enough funds to bridge the gap.

The original February 1 announcement said:

In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018.  Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage.  Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st.

What changed? Borderlands Books held a public meeting February 12 and, to the booksellers’ surprise, some workable ideas were brought forward. One is their newly announced plan to offer paid sponsorships of the store —

Each sponsorship will cost $100 for the year and will need to be renewed every year.  If we get 300 sponsors before March 31st, we will stay open for the remainder of 2015.

The Plan
Our goal is to gather enough paid sponsors to cover the projected short-fall in income that will be the result of the minimum wage increase in San Francisco.  At the beginning of next year we will again solicit sponsors.  If next year we again reach our goal by March 31st, we will remain open through 2016.  This process will continue each year until we close, either because of a lack of sponsorship or for other reasons.

That will be enough to cover their projected $25,000 shortfall, provide a cash reserve — and convince ownership the necessary level of support is really there.

If you’re down with The Plan (John Scalzi has already tweeted it to the four corners of the internet) here is how to sign up:

To pay in person, just come into the store anytime between noon and eight and inquire at the counter.  To pay by credit card, please call 415 824-8203 or toll-free at 888 893-4008 during the same hours (please be patient if you get a busy signal as we only have two phone lines).  To pay by check, please send the check to – Borderlands Books, Sponsorships, 866 Valencia St.  SF  CA 94110 and make sure to include your phone number, email address, and mailing address.

Other ideas Borderlands Books will pursue are: offering a monthly book subscription program; reaching out to local companies to see if they would be interested in hosting Google-style book talks; investigating the possibilities of starting a non-profit organization to help support either Borderlands specifically or San Francisco bookstores in general; and using the local political process to address some of the challenges facing smaller, local retailers.

[Thanks to Gregory Benford and D. Geordie Howe for the story.]

Discover more from File 770

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

8 thoughts on “Borderlands Books Goes Under, Then Resurfaces

  1. I think their choice of payment methods for sponsorship may well indicate the problem with the business. It’s the 21st century. People don’t pay for things by phoning up or by posting a cheque. They should get themselves onto Patreon, or at least have a PayPal link, or at least (if such things are possible with the antiquated American banking system) give the account details for a direct funds transfer.

  2. Mike: First off, your title says “Borderland” books, not “Borderlands.”

    What do they mean by “Google-style book talks?” How do these differ from traditional signings? Martin

  3. Well, I don’t know what Borderlands means by “Google-style book talks”, but as a former Googler and member of the @Google team, what we meant by them was an author (quickly expanded into including other notable/interesting people) gets invited to speak/be interviewed at a Google office, with an audience of Googlers and a Q&A session at the end. The event is recorded, and unless the speaker has reasons not to want it to happen, is then put up on YouTube for mass viewership. I suggest taking a look at (and subscribing to) the Talks at Google YouTube channel; there’s a lot of interesting folk and talks in there.

    Originally, there were free copies of authors’ latest book given out; last time I stuck my head in one, a local bookstore was selling copies of the latest book at a subsidized by Google discount.

  4. Mike Scott: Borderlands addressed that question in their announcement.

    “Though we considered partnering with an outside company to collect the payments, we concluded that we’re sort of old-fashioned and value our direct connection with our customers. So, payments may be made in person at the store, by phone with a credit card or by mail via check.”

    If you don’t like that policy, this may not be the store for you. What is a person who likes to declare “It’s the 21st century” doing with a brick-and-mortar bookshop anyway?

  5. Tom Galloway: Thanks for the explanation. Here in Washington we have think-tank book talks, which seem to be pretty much the same thing.

  6. So basically the store is asking for charity in order to offset the imposition of government action that would otherwise make it impossible to operate. Lulz. The really funny part is if you ask most of the people donating if raising the minimum wage was a good idea they’d probably still say yes, apparently being unable to realize the same costs will be imposed everywhere, not just on their favorite boutique bookstore.

  7. Ravenshrike: Borderlands addressed the issue you’re raising. Those other businesses can raise their prices. Bookstores essentially can’t charge more than the cover price. Note that the adjacent cafe (same ownership) said it could stay open, because it could raise its prices to cover its increased costs.

  8. Theoretically those other stores can raise their prices. In reality, people will forgo various forms of pleasure or find cheaper alternatives, which will result in loss of business and inevitably force more businesses to fail than otherwise would. The they can always raise prices argument is a complete cop-out.

Comments are closed.