Borders rocks, Barnes and Noble is a joke and why your e-reader is teh weaksauce

As i write this, Borders [BGP, currently delisted], is closing about 33% of their stores. During the last holiday season, their sales were dismal whereas Barnes and Noble posted healthy profits. This is so depressingly wrong.

Let’s play that game that i like to play so much: compare and contrast.

I don’t make much money. I work for a high school and clear less than $2000 a month. That’s a fiscal reality that i have to plan my life around. I also like books. Lots and lots of books… and dvd’s and cd’s. Ask anyone that’s helped me move. I like books.

You can enroll in a free program that Borders has called Borders Rewards. You give them an e-mail address and they send coupons out nearly every week. I have a gmail “mule” account for such things. The coupons range from buy one, get one half price [admittedly, this is a pretty lame coupon], to 33% off of any item, 40% off any item and twice in the last Christmas season, i received 50% off any one item coupons.

These are coupons towards virtually any item in the store. There are some limitations such as e-readers, comic books [but can be applied towards TPB’s] and a few other items but the coupons apply to books, DVD’s, Blu Ray’s and music as well as anything you might want from the coffee stand, including bags of coffee.

So get a 33% for Borders. They’re usually good for a weekend plus the following Monday.

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.
$7.99 – 33%= $5.35

The same book at Barnes and Noble: $7.99 .
$7.99 – no coupon = $7.99

Wait. It gets better.

Borders has the Rewards program [free] and the Borders Rewards Plus program. The Plus program usually runs $20 but i bought into it while it was on sale for $10. I received $10 of store credit for enrolling so the program paid for itself. BRPlus does a couple of things- actually, it does a few.

1) An additional 10% off of items AFTER the coupon has been applied.
2) Free shipping on items from Borders.com- with no minimum.

So, a few weeks ago there was a 33% coupon. I found a book i wanted but i knew i wouldn’t have time to drive to either of the surviving Borders in the PDX area [goodbye downtown Borders- i’ll miss you and the crazy magnet you were on many a Saturday morning]. So i applied the coupon to a book that was $7.99. Here’s the breakdown:

$7.99 – 33% = $5.35 BUT! I belong to Borders Rewards Plus, remember?
So then it’s $5.35- 10% = $4.45 with FREE SHIPPING.

And like i said, it applies towards other items. There’s a board game that’s garnered a significant amount of prestige from the folk at boardgamegeek.com . It’s called Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game [boardgamegeek link]. It retails for $60. Okay, pretty typical retail markup. I’ve found it online for $40 but never cheaper than that.

Borders sends me a 40% coupon. Remember, i get an additional 10% off and free shipping.

Retail: $59.95
My cost: $32.37

Barnes and Noble: Item is not sold

But let’s do some Barnes and Noble math. Let’s assume they retail this game for the same price. Let’s add on the 33% or 40% coupon they send. Oh wait, Barnes and Noble doesn’t send out coupons like that. Sometimes they send out 10% coupons and make it seem like they’re doing YOU a favor. [note: on 22 Feb 2011, i received a B&N coupon titled: LAST DAY! Visit a Store or BN.COM and Save 10%, which only validates my contempt for B&N, particularly in light of the 33-50% coupons Borders sends me]

Granted, Barnes and Noble has a used book marketplace. I buy all my used books and music from Amazon, anyway. I don’t know if Borders will ever have one but the only time i need a used book is if i’m looking for something out of print or prohibitively expensive, even after coupons [such as technical books].

So other than being one of the worst retail companies in America, what does Barnes and Noble offer me that i can’t readily get elsewhere?

E-readers? Okay, the Nook has received good reviews. Were it powered by Android, had it a USB port and a slot for SD memory cards, i would get one. But they don’t and so i wont.

E-readers have their place. I’m actually not against e-readers. What i’m against is not having books. That is to say, a book has a value beyond reading it. Books give a space a feel. Books have a sweet odor that i find comforting. Books are social. When you’re getting to know someone, you can peruse someones books to see where their tastes lie. Maybe your tastes overlap, maybe you find something you find of interest- and from that a conversation is started.

E-readers offer no such comfort. E-readers offer the same sterility of a surgery table. They’re, generally speaking, the same price as a paperback, too. And what happens if your e-reader is stolen? How many times do you get to download a book before the publisher says, “No more!”?

And remember the art of loaning books to friends ? Yeah, that won’t be happening anymore with your precious e-reader.

The bottom line is that publishers are pushing e-books like a drug dealer pushing cheap heroin. Why? So you can’t lend books anymore. So you can’t sell them when you need cash anymore. So you can’t buy used books anymore. An e-book has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with selling you something that cannot be loaned or resold and makes your purchase even more worthless than ever before.

But back to what this post was originally about- Borders is in trouble; serious trouble. Barnes and Noble is making out like a thief in an abandoned town. Both are good stores, i’m not trying to say one is and one isn’t. What i AM trying to say is that one store works for your business and is willing to sacrifice obese profits for the sake of getting people in the door. The other one assumes you’re stupid enough to shell out $8 for a paperback no matter what. They don’t send significant coupons, they treat their brand name as though it were some egalitarian luxury and it’s my sense that Barnes and Noble laughs off their asses at how gullible people are for their brand name.

But for me, dollar for dollar, Borders is where i will do business for as long as they stand. So far, they’ve done right by me and i’ll be glad to return the favor.

1 Comment

  1. I totally agree with you! I always had coupons from borders and was over there getting books all the time. Now that borders has closed down I have went to amazon although I liked going into the book store to get a book when I wanted it but I will not go to barnes and noble (way to expensive)! I also agree about the nook no matter what that person says it’s nothing like having a book. Having a book is so much more than reading from a computer because that is almost what it’s like. There is so much technology in this world already that is taking over everything including books now too! There is no way I could ever replace all my books for technology, as u said theres a cerain smell to them and just having all your books there where they feel that space. This is the best argument I have seen and I agree with you 100% on everything you have said!

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