Borders in downtown Santa Barbara, technology & the magical 40%

As many of us locals have now heard, Borders downtown is closing on Jan 7th,2011. This is sad not only for book lovers, but also for any of us who have spent many hours and days “hanging out”. Borders, coincidentally has been in that location the same amount of time that I have been in Santa Barbara, and in addition to buying books, it’s where you would come and listen to music, when new cds came out (unless you went to the Warehouse next to now Gelson’s or to Just Play Music). Not to mention the fantastic live music, such as Benise, who was such a local treat and is now an international success.

This store is also the place where you’d hear all sorts of good speakers and authors. Among them, I first heard Dean Karnazes here- an ultra marathoner! Groups and friends used this as their meeting place such as the Screenwriters Association, the Boardgame meetup group and I can’t imagine how many UCSB, SBCC, Westmont and high school students studied for exams and finals here.

Understandably though there are probably just not enough sells to warrant keeping this location open, and how could there be? With, and almost any book you pick up in the store you can find (immediately online at a much cheaper price.)

Music CD’s were always an interesting concept. Usually you only liked one or two songs you heard on the radio but then would have to buy a CD with 12 songs at first, now usually 10 for at least $20, and once you buy it, who knows if you’d like it. Then there was the free music moment, first with Napster, and then others that followed, but that also fell through. If you look at now you will see their recent and tragic end. Now when it comes to music, I think there is a happy compromise,, and other sites that sell you the songs for a reasonable price, and if you want you can even buy the entire albums. If websites get as good though as at personalizing your music and giving us exactly what we want, when we want it, will there really be a need to BUY too much music? The song at a time, model then could be short lived.

Movies similarily to music cd’s might now be replaced by the immediate delivery of movies, primarily through netflix, and tv shows are being provided by hulu and others. So then, why buy a dvd at full price, unless it’s your favorite movie, or perhaps a gift, and even then we are right back to square number one, buying it online for a much cheaper price. But how much cheaper?

Well, since I heard Borders was going to close I made it a point to go in more than once a week. The first markdown was more or less a store wide 30% discount. I found many books I thought were interesting and maybe worth buying (I only buy paperback non-fiction books) but I scanned them on my application on my iphone and found that even with the 30% discount, most of these books were still more expensive than buying them online (including the shipping cost). When I went in today though, everything was 40% off, and this time, the  difference in price between buying it at the store and buying it online, made the decision much harder since the difference was probably about a dollar, and at that point you would have to see what condition the online books are in, shipping etc, to find which made more sense. I imagine with a 45% discount, it would undoubtedly make more sense to buy everything at the store, new and immediately than online. But 45% difference, can any store really sell enough at a 45% discount to keep them in business? Part of the question is, what is the biggest expense of books, music and dvds? (not including the miscellaneous items such as gifts, journals, pens, board games etc). Is the publishing the expensive part? Or the distribution?

Even assuming that they were able to minimize publishing and distribution costs, I am still curious (almost concerned) about the quickly changing preferences for the e-readers- whether they be the kindle, sony e-reader, the nook, or something incorporated into computers and tables? Google, just this week launched what it calls the google ebookstore, where basically you buy your e-books from any source (amazon, barnes & nobles online, borders online) etc and then save them, “up there”, you know on the internet, and that way they are available to you on any e-reader! With Christmas around the corner, I have a feeling we will know a lot more e-book converts, but not me. I like to do it all online, except for books, there’s nothing like flipping the pages of good book, while at a coffee shop, the beach or in bed.

Board Game Meet-up group above.

Folks shopping for bargains at the downtown bookstore and maybe a coffee

An almost empty level all the way up top…


About oliviauribe

Twitter @osum Bio: Progressive, medical interpreter, Political Junkie, Runner, country music fan, and mom.
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1 Response to Borders in downtown Santa Barbara, technology & the magical 40%

  1. Mike Brannon says:

    It’s really unfortunate. I haven’t lived here as long as some people but the changes to the downtown landscape in the last couple years have really been for the worse. Borders was one of my favorite places on State and I am not looking forward to it being gone. With that said, I was planning to check it out today after work to see if I can’t track down a few deals myself.

    As you touched on, Borders is really one of a dying breed. The music industry went through a paradigm shift around the turn of the century that it really wasn’t prepared for. Both the mode of consumption and perceived value of the product drastically changed and rather than embrace it, we were forced to watch the industry flop around embarrassingly in an attempt to hold on to old business models.

    Film didn’t handle it much better but books really have an opportunity to do things differently. I think we are seeing this with the early adoption of e-book readers from all the major competitors but like the music and film industry, the publishers will be the biggest hurdle while they struggle to come to terms with the lower perceived value of their content. It’s sort of ridiculous that they expect me to pay the same for an electronic copy as I would a hardcover. All the costs of distribution have been removed and their monopoly is dead. But, they have embraced it sooner than the others which is evident by the fact that we are still watching the other two industries embarrass themselves in court rather than come up with solutions.

    Books do have one benefit that other mass media didn’t: their original format is superior. But it won’t last and brick and mortar buildings really are a dying breed. I’ll miss you Borders and I fear you won’t be the last but hey, it’s probably for the best.

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