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Local Group Meetups > Borderlands Bookstore SF announced it is Closing

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message 2: by Sky (last edited Feb 01, 2015 01:13PM) (new)

Sky | 665 comments Bummer - Too bad they can't find a viable business model while paying employee(s) a livable wage.

Anyone want to move the monthly meeting to the East Bay?...Lots of good small independent SFF book stores in Oakland/Berkeley


message 3: by Ulmer Ian (new)

Ulmer Ian (eean) | 341 comments This just makes me so sad.

I live in Berkeley so of course support moving it here. (In reality a coffee place would work just as well.) But too soon! Still mourning.


message 4: by Olivia (new)

Olivia (oliviayoungers) | 115 comments I'm Oakland based and moving it to the bay would make it easier for me since it's usually worknights

but yeah

this is not the desired impetus for that relocation of the meetup at all


message 5: by Veronica, Supreme Sword (new)

Veronica Belmont (veronicabelmont) | 1702 comments Mod
I wrote a post about it: http://swordandlaser.com/home/2015/2/...

I am... well, crushed isn't even the right word. Heartbroken?


message 6: by Bernardo (new)

Bernardo | 28 comments This makes me so sad! Borderlands is the best SF and Fantasy bookstore!


message 7: by Lariela (new)

Lariela | 79 comments Drat! Don't think I was ever able to visit.


message 8: by Trike (new)

Trike | 8768 comments Bummer. The very first time I visited SF in 1997 I went to Borderlands. I have a photo around here somewhere of that first store.


message 9: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Richter (stephenofllongbeach) | 1340 comments It is a tough time for independent bookstores, a lack of people who read, combined with the changing reading habits of those who do. Shame they blame the minimum wage, because it goes way deeper than that. I can not even imagine trying to live in SF on 28k a year.


message 10: by Sky (new)

Sky | 665 comments Stephen wrote: "It is a tough time for independent bookstores, a lack of people who read, combined with the changing reading habits of those who do. Shame they blame the minimum wage, because it goes way deeper th..."

Thank you. I have all the love in the world for the Borderlands book store, but the fact that they singled out having to pay people a living wage as the main reason they finally have to close the doors really pissed me off.


message 11: by Olivia (new)

Olivia (oliviayoungers) | 115 comments Sky wrote: "Stephen wrote: "It is a tough time for independent bookstores, a lack of people who read, combined with the changing reading habits of those who do. Shame they blame the minimum wage, because it go..."

I read that more as a straw that broke the back kind of gig. They say in the same post that they support the concept of a living wage but just can't sustain what a living wage IS in SF. Which I think is fair. What anything costs in the bay area is unreal :-(


message 12: by Olivia (new)

Olivia (oliviayoungers) | 115 comments So there's a bookstore in Menlo Park - Kepler's - that faced the same problem. They are flushing out a business model where they split the bookstore in two on paper:

1) Events / Book clubs / Readings etc are considered community events and sit under a non-profit status for both donations and deductions for cost associated with hosting these activites.

2) Turning the profit-based business itself into a community owned company.

Wondering if something like that could work here? I wish we knew just how bad the financial situation is -- are we only mostly dead or all dead?


message 13: by Joanna Chaplin (new)

Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments What a pity. I had mentally added it to my list of places to visit if I ever took a trip to San Francisco.


message 14: by Wastrel (last edited Feb 02, 2015 06:55AM) (new)

Wastrel | 184 comments Olivia wrote: "So there's a bookstore in Menlo Park - Kepler's - that faced the same problem. They are flushing out a business model where they split the bookstore in two on paper:

1) Events / Book clubs / Read..."


I do think that some sort of community ownership, de jure or de facto, and whether that's the local community or a broader community of supporters, may have to be the future for a lot of bookshops if they want to survive.

The problem is, people like the existence of good bookshops, but don't really value their services. There are bookshops I like visiting, but between the hassle of getting to them and the fact I can anything I want cheaper from Amazon, how much do I actually buy from them? Well, not enough to meaningfully contribute to their survival, I'm sure.

So maybe they need to get money from their supporters directly to support their existence? Whether that's through collective ownership perhaps, or just through 'membership' cards (turn the book shop into a book club).

And they have to branch out from selling books. Be 'the place book-lovers go', not just 'the place to buy books', because they can't compete at that. So yes, readings, book club meetings, signings, etc. And of course... coffee shops! [People like being in a bookshop, so you need to find some way to monetise that and get them to stay, rather than having them walk in, look around, maybe buy a book (or not) and then leave].

The problem with broadening, of course, is that a few years later the owner will look around and say "hey, this is a really succesful little coffee shop hosting local events and book readings and so forth... why am I wasting money storing all these books on the shelves!?" and just become a normal coffee shop.


EDIT: or, of course, governments could just decide to make Amazon pay tax. But that seems to be off the table, so...


message 15: by Rob, Roberator (new)

Rob (robzak) | 6892 comments Mod
Wastrel wrote: "EDIT: or, of course, governments could just decide to make Amazon pay tax. But that seems to be off the table, so.."

They do, just not everywhere. Amazon opened a warehouse in Maryland last year, and since October they are collecting tax on physical goods sold to residents of the state.

They had been collecting NY State Taxes for awhile too. I'm not sure which states have tax, but some of them definitely do.


message 16: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 846 comments Forty years ago, when I worked summers for Phi Beta Kappa, we added tax on ALL states. Turns out it's because L. G. Balfour Company (makers of Phi Beta Kappa keys, class rings, etc.) had salespeople in all states, going directly to the universities/high schools/whatever to get orders. Places like Sears Mail Order charged taxes in states where they had a warehouse. I'm not sure of all the rules, but that's the general idea. I suspect changing that for online ordering would complicate things, but at least you could probably get the taxes figured with software instead of a Big Book. (Some states had different taxes for different locations, so you had to go by the zip code.)


message 17: by Olivia (new)

Olivia (oliviayoungers) | 115 comments Wastrel wrote: "Olivia wrote: "So there's a bookstore in Menlo Park - Kepler's - that faced the same problem. They are flushing out a business model where they split the bookstore in two on paper:

1) Events / Bo..."


Amazon sales tax is a state by state thing (and they DO charge for CA) and isn't going to make a difference really. Even with tax it's cheaper AND has the added convenience of delivery--free within 2 days including sundays for prime members and sometimes you get it same day just because the nearest distribution center has it. My roommate orders his *toilet paper* from amazon because he doesn't like going to the store.


message 18: by Olivia (new)

Olivia (oliviayoungers) | 115 comments Wastrel wrote: "So maybe they need to get money from their supporters directly to support their existence? Whether that's through collective ownership perhaps, or just through 'membership' cards (turn the book shop into a book club)."

There's an LA bookstore that has a membership card model. Not sure that's still enough to substantiate the shop but it IS a way to supplement a little extra cash - 25 dollars for one year and it gets you into exclusive events/signings/etc.


message 19: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 02, 2015 07:40AM) (new)

I agree with Sky. I am upset that this is turning into news outlets talking about, "See what happens when you increase the minimum wage?"
When it's a story about smaller local companies not being viable against larger corporations.

Workers deserve a livable wage.

I don't order books from Amazon anymore (though I can't really find an ebook alternative since I own a Kindle) and I'm trying to avoid Indigo as much as I can and check my local bookstores first. But agreed, Amazon has significantly cheaper prices and economically it's not a straightforward decision for me to make. And it's not a decision everyone can make, especially if your local bookstore isn't local.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2898 comments Wastrel wrote: "The problem is, people like the existence of good bookshops, but don't really value their services. There are bookshops I like visiting, but between the hassle of getting to them and the fact I can anything I want cheaper from Amazon, how much do I actually buy from them? Well, not enough to meaningfully contribute to their survival, I'm sure. "

I'm afraid this is true, for me too. But I'm always sad to see a well-curated specialty bookstore close.


message 21: by Sean Lookielook (new)

Sean Lookielook Sandulak (seansandulak) | 432 comments I do not like this timeline. Somebody go back and change this.


message 22: by Sky (new)

Sky | 665 comments Perhaps it is a matter of scale. I frequent many small owner-operated used bookstores and they _seem_ to be doing alright. If you are the sole owner/employee/cashier/etc you don't have to pay yourself anything, you pay for your own health insurance, etc. I don't think large independent bookstores have much of a future, unfortunately. Even large chain bookstores are closing down in the face of Amazon/digital content. And if we look 20 years down the road, who thinks physical print books will still be the dominant medium?

I agree the living wage was the straw the broke the camels back but in my quick reading of their blog post, they seemed to be placing the blame almost entirely on the increase in minimum wage, which is still ridiculously low given the cost of living in the area.


message 23: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Richter (stephenofllongbeach) | 1340 comments I think that Veronica said it best on the panel broadcast, the books on the e-reader is so nice, right there, always at your touch, you do not realize the hurt done to the independent bookstore. But the main reason is still the lack of readers. It kills me to see people playing Candy Crush when they could be reading a good book.


message 24: by Olivia (new)

Olivia (oliviayoungers) | 115 comments Stephen wrote: "I think that Veronica said it best on the panel broadcast, the books on the e-reader is so nice, right there, always at your touch, you do not realize the hurt done to the independent bookstore. Bu..."

I don't know if it would help, or if Amazon would ever go for it, but I would love for kindle downloads to have an optional $1 upcharge at check out--which goes 100% to a local bookstore of your choice (they'd have to register with Amazon) but since I do now download half of my books on my kindle I'd definitely be willing to do this if it means local bookstores get funds. Plus since that's money that is entirely profit I'd like to think it would be helpful.

Not that this will ever happen but....


message 25: by Wastrel (new)

Wastrel | 184 comments I'm really not sure that 'lack of readers' is a problem. At least in the UK, surveys show readership never really declined that much and is currently increasing.


Regarding taxes: I wasn't talking specifically about US sales taxes levied by California. I was talking more generally about the very low level of tax paid by Amazon as a company, in most countries, compared to traditional bookshops. Sales tax/VAT is only the tip of that iceberg [in the UK, that issue is moot, because there is no VAT on books, no matter who the retailer is].

In the UK, for example, Amazon paid £4m in tax last year, and £3m in tax the year before that. This actually represents a massive success in getting them to pay tax, because they've only paid £10m in the last ten years (that is, 70% of all their tax in the last decade has been in the last two years).

£10 million may seem like a lot to pay in tax, until you consider that in the last ten years they've sold £23 billion of products. Which is to say they pay an effective tax on their revenue (from sales, not including their other investments) of half of one thousandth of one percent. As well as selling all those products to people in the UK, they also have major physical assets here: huge warehouses, seven thousand workers, many of their servers, office buildings and so forth.
However, UK corporate taxes are based on profits, and Amazon allegedly makes no profit in the UK. Amazon in fact does no business in the UK! Amazon UK is simply running these warehouses and data centres and offices and so forth because they're being paid to do so by Amazon Luxembourg (or one of several nested shell companies in Luxembourg), and they only get paid very slightly more than the running cost of these facilities, so there's basically no profit at all. When UK customers buy from Amazon, the book they buy is in the UK, the server they use to send the order is in the UK, THEY are in the UK and the book never travels beyond the UK getting from the bookshop to the buyer's door. But the sale happens, magically, through some mystical sorcery of tax codes, in Luxembourg, and profit is only made in Luxembourg, and Luxembourg has arranged that Amazon only needs to pay a tiny amount of tax to them.

Needless to say, small companies cannot possibly compete with a company who pays no tax. [Amazon does presumably pay some tax for owning its properties, but as an online retailer it can put its warehouses in places with very low property prices (and hence taxes)]


To be fair, the EU is now investigating this and it seems clear they're going to force Luxembourg to charge more tax than they do now. But the underlying problem is that a small independent bookshop has to pay tax HERE, whereas Amazon is allowed to decide for itself where its sales and its profits are taking place. I'm not saying that with sane tax codes the advantage would swing to the bookshops again - because there are genuine advantages to amazon's model, like not needing to own prime retail space and being able to reduce the amount of book shipping to a minimum - but it would probably increase the chances of its rivals from 'none whatsoever' up to 'have to work hard but survival is just about possible'.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Sky wrote: "Perhaps it is a matter of scale. I frequent many small owner-operated used bookstores and they _seem_ to be doing alright. If you are the sole owner/employee/cashier/etc you don't have to pay you..."

I think that's how others are reading into it too, at least from news outlets and from Veronica's blog post.

http://www.shelf-awareness.com/issue....

"Blaming minimum wage hikes..."


message 27: by Eric (new)

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 632 comments I think we're in an interesting situation with the indie book store and the local comicbook shop. What's good about them? Support local business/economy, get to know the employees (although you could do that at a big store, too as long as it didn't have crazy turnover), anything else?

What's bad about them? Higher prices (usually) and don't have "everything"

But this is one of those tragedy of the commons things, isn't it? Whose responsibility is it to spend more money and keep them in business? If I spend more to keep them in business, I'm buying less books and putting authors out of business. But once everyone but Amazon is gone, then Amazon can set whatever price they want. So that's bad, but who has to spend the money to prevent this - I don't have it, I buy book bundles so I can affords more reading.

We can maybe hope that, as with indie music, the Inernet allows authors to go directly to users. It's pretty trivial to buy EPUBs and put them an anything but a Kindle. And with Calibre it's pretty trivial to put it on a Kindle. But how many people will do that?

It's a scary and fascinating world we're entering. No one truly knows where we'll end up.


message 28: by Joseph (new)

Joseph | 2296 comments Sorry to hear about it even though the last (only, I think) time I visited there was in 1993. And yes, the blaming it on the minimum wage thing does leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, unfortunately.

Here's hoping Uncle Hugo's here in Minneapolis is able to keep going -- I still give them virtually all of my physical SFF book business even though I mostly read on my Kindle these days.


message 29: by Fresno Bob (new)

Fresno Bob | 584 comments Before anyone else gets on Alan for his minimum wage stance, let's remember who he is talking about, basically himself, Jude and one more employee, and the fact that the margin on books, and the pricing power controlled by Amazon makes that untenable, unlike coffee and pastries next door

If you've followed Borderlands saga from old t-shirt store through Ripley and cafe buildout, you've heard Alan's warning about the impact of Amazon on bookstores, I wish he would have called that out more


message 30: by Eric (new)

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 632 comments Anja wrote: "I agree with Sky. I am upset that this is turning into news outlets talking about, "See what happens when you increase the minimum wage?"
When it's a story about smaller local companies not being ..."


If you still want ebooks - just use Calibre to convert EPUBs you can buy anywhere to MOBI and you can sideload them onto your Kindle.


message 31: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Feb 05, 2015 01:33PM) (new)

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Borderlands blog added some posts from Alan, one about alternatives to closing they considered:
http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com...

and a nuanced post about the way San Francisco's minimum wage law is rolling out:
http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com...


message 32: by Randolph (new)

Randolph (us227381) | 2 comments Olivia wrote: "http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com...

March 2015"


It's a real long time until 2018. Why close in 2015?


message 33: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new)

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Randolph wrote: "Olivia wrote: "http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com...

March 2015"

It's a real long time until 2018. Why close in 2015?"


The wages increase gradually over that time frame. Alan believes that the store's financial state is doomed with that increase, so he wants to do a graceful closing early to avoid what he forecasts as a slow painful donward spiral. See the two posts I linked above for more details on his reasoning.


message 34: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4078 comments I used to love the Science Fantasy bookstore in Cambridge MA and bought a lot of SF there. My family used to pass books around and we would have an informal "dibs" list on who got the book next.

I don't know how long ago that bookstore went out of business, but it's been a while. Amazon is just fine for me. This is destructive change and it's, well, destructive.


message 35: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new)

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Update: as a result of feedback from last Thur's public meeting, Borderlands is going to try to stay open through paid sponsorships!

They need 300 $100 sponsorships by March 31st to stay open in 2015. Benefits of being a sponsor & reasons behind it here:
http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com...

I'll become a sponsor on Monday at our meetup. Hoping the support comes through (the majority of attendees Thur said they'd show support in this way).


message 36: by Fresno Bob (new)

Fresno Bob | 584 comments Frakking awesome, i too will buy in on monday


message 37: by Joseph (new)

Joseph | 2296 comments Very happy to hear it, although I have no idea when/if I'll next be in the Bay Area.


message 38: by Ken (new)

Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments I'd love to help Borderlands. The world needs more SF bookstores and that one is iconic. I really hope they are able to find a model that allows them to keep serving the community.


message 39: by Michele (new)

Michele | 1154 comments Borderlands is safe for now

http://io9.com/update-science-fiction...


message 40: by Joanna Chaplin (new)

Joanna Chaplin | 1175 comments Yay! If of subscriptions or club memberships is the new fit for book stores, that would be neat.


message 41: by Paul (new)

Paul | 18 comments If I can get 300 people to each give me $100. or 600 people to each give me $50. I could get the car I have been looking at.


message 42: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new)

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
So happy they made it! :D And still pledging my sponsorship tonight.


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