Thursday, September 08, 2011

Closing time

Like every other avid book-reader in the country in a major metro area, I've been keeping an eye on the closing sale of Borders. The book store chain declared bankruptcy a few weeks ago, and it has been slowly selling off its stock since then. It's a perfect time to take a look at the game that such sales create.

I usually assign some sort of price tag to a book when I see it. Some books jump out at me and scream "pay full price." This might include, in my case, the annual NHL Guide and Record Book, the Baseball Prospectus, and the Best Sportswriting series in a given year.

Otherwise, though, it's something of a sliding scale. I'll see a particular book that's new and say, "It's not worth $26 to me, so I'll wait until it comes down it price." It might pop up in trade paperback, it might make it to, or it may make the dollar store in a couple of years. I'm willing to wait; I have lots to read in the meantime. (I should note that I'm as cheap as the next person when it comes to books and thus like libraries, but the selection is obviously a little limited since I don't read my best sellers in the traditional sense.)

In Borders' case, the store obvioiusly wanted to maximize its income from the bankruptcy sale. That's only logical. But the process makes it a big guessing game from the consumer's point of view, as the amount of product is finite.

Readers have the decision as to where a book falls on the price-point scale, and the tests come weekly. Since usually discounts books by 30 percent or so, I obviously started there. When Borders got to 40 percent off of a book by Neil Peart (the drummer from Rush), a volume that doesn't seem to be discounted heavily among used book sellers, I bought it. Last week, prices were discounted 60 to 80 percent. OK, Ron Jaworski's book on significant football games seemed worthwhile at that price, as did a couple of others. But I also saw a copy of Y.A. Tittle's autobiography, which wasn't worth $10 to me.

But a few days later, when everything was down another 10 percent, Tittle's book was still there. That's the game you play in these sales -- would it still be there the next time around? I decided it was worth $7.50 to me. Plus a book featuring a close-up book on the Obama Administration seemed well worth $2.50.

Bargains are where you find them, naturally. Today in the Dollar Store, I saw three books of interest. I tend to think, "A book for a dollar? That's less than a bottle of Coke Zero," and buy it. I'm assuming Dustin Pedroia's autobiography is worth more than a soft drink.

The going-out-of-business sale is winding down this week. A friend said to me about Borders' demise, "It's kind of sad, isn't it?" And it is. I always knew I'd have a good time in a bookstore like Borders, seeing what new stories were out there. It just didn't sell enough product to keep up with (part of the problem), and couldn't move fast enough to stay with the e-book revolution which seems to be coming in some areas.

We'll miss you, Borders.

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