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.]

Bookmakers Bet Against Bookseller

John Mansfield sends a link to TeleRead’s “A Run on the Borders” reporting new symptoms of the bookseller’s failing condition:  

A few days ago, I mentioned Borders’s financial problems—it had to delay payments to some publishers because it needed all the cash on hand it could keep as it was trying to refinance its debt after a new appraisal reduced the value of its assets. Now Galleycat reports that two of Borders’s executives have resigned: executive VP Thomas D. Carney and CIO D. Scott Laverty have both stepped down.

One big publisher has stopped shipments to Borders according to Publishers Weekly.

“So the race is on,” says John. He asks, “Who collapses first, Borders/Chapters/Barnes & Noble??”

The Undead Bookstores of Kentucky

The Joseph-Beth Booksellers chain, a Lexington, KY icon for years, has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Four of its nine locations are now walking dead – they will close by the time the company emerges from bankruptcy. 

The company’s president believes many more bookstores across America are fated to close in the near future:

“I think in the next three to five years, you’ll see half the bookstores in this country close,” Joseph-Beth Booksellers President Neil Van Uum told the Lexington Herald-Leader. recently reported two other stories that amount to distress signals for book retailers.  Hastings Entertainment reported that its new book sales dropped 9.3% for the quarter ending October 31. Also, a U.S. Census report said book sales were down 7.7% in September after a 6.5% drop in August, and year-to-date book sales are down 2.6%.

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the link.]

No Potter Book Will Save B&N This Year

Barnes & Noble reported its first quarter earnings on May 22, showing that sales dropped 1.5% among stores it owned a year ago. (Analysts look to “same store sales” for the market trend — B&N’s overall sales are higher due to new stores added to the chain.) The second quarter will compare even more unfavorably, because that is the period last year when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows was released.

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the pointer.]

Mirror on the Wall

Francis Hamit points out a chance to “see ourselves as others see us” in this post to a bookseller’s blog titled “Building Your Client Base at Fan Conventions.” The sensible advice by Nora of Rainy Day Paperback in Connecticut includes:

If you make money at the con, that’s great! However, you’re really looking to break even, especially the first time you attend one of these. It’s not about selling books AT the convention. It’s about convincing fans that you are a great source for books about their favorite hobby.