Pushed Over The Borderline: About Time?

Second-hand bookshops, they do need protecting. And the majority of their owners need shooting.

We’ve all read this week that Borders has gone into administration. I’m thrilled personally, because only last week, thanks to Borders debt struggles, I managed to buy the Pierre & Gilles huge hardback book at a 70% discount. It was practically a give-away!

Borders have been struggling against the rise of the internet and supermarkets. No shit. But even if the internet didn’t exist, Borders are/were still secondary to Waterstones in terms of breadth, diversity and quantity. All that Borders has/had above Waterstones is/was a brilliant magazine section. If Waterstones start doing magazines again, then there’s absolutely no need for Borders.

Magazine lovers are complaining and lamenting across Twitter. Yet the fact that Borders’ staff are mainly, in my experience, hush-hush libertarian pacifistic wombats is part of why they’re going bust. In Borders one can sit in a cosy plastic-leather armchair and practically lick the pages of twenty magazines, and nobody would stop you.

How does that kind of in-store leniency help the print media industry to hold on while the tide is high? I was born in a small village in Leicestershire where one couldn't so much as touch the cover of a magazine without buying it. I'm sure the keeper of that store is partying his way through the recession.

I know that some magazines are ridiculously high priced these days. £5, £6, £7.99! It's a lot of money. But that's why you buy magazines that have impressed you, are consistently of a high quality, and have gained your loyalty and trust. That's why you don't buy a magazine you've never heard of unless you're willing to take the risk. And it is a risk, it's part of the fun with magazines. They're a lifestyle, they're a mindset, not a public service.

Oh yeah, Borders also offer very nice but very pricey posh stationery. Lovely when you’ve got £20 to roll up a cig with, but not in the middle of a recession. £2.50 on a piece of wrapping paper? I can barely afford toothpaste. Even if I did have the money, I could just shoplift a copy of Wallpaper* anyway. It’s not like the inattentive dopey boys employed there give/gave a shit.

No. I like Waterstones, where the shelves are seven foot high, everything is painted black and people death stare you as you stand before the gay/lesbian section. “Alan Hollinghurst mate. Ali Smith. Jake Arnott. It’s NOT kiddy porn.”

And so we come round to the topic of the internet. That cumbersome evil force that you are using to read this piece. Naturally the internet is the best place to buy mainstream fiction. Book shops that sell new books are basically warehouses with unlocked doors, so why not cut the lumbering and wandering out and just order to your door? Oh, because most people don’t know what to read do they? Because reading for them is a pretence, as opposed to a journey they’ve been forging for years? We're a nation that likes to browwwse. Is that a good thing or is that a little bit pathetic? Do we prefer to order off menus or graise like cattle?

Of course second-hand bookshops, they do need protecting. And the majority of their owners need shooting.

I don’t think supermarkets are a real threat are they? They only sell shit books - sports bios and Dawn French's memoirs. And I’m sure the increase in trolley-pushing Katie Price readers weren’t exactly poached from the stained carpet of Borders. Those women simply didn’t read in the past.

As long as another major store somewhere offers a fantastic magazine range then we’ve nothing to worry about. Bye bye Borders. And as for WHSmiths… Please please PLEASE can they go bust too?

P.S. Did you know… Borders UK was spun-off from the American group in 2007 when it was bought by Risk Capital, the private equity company owned by Luke Johnson, the Pizza Express entrepreneur and former Channel 4 chairman? (Source – www.business.timesonline.co.uk ) So basically Luke Johnson went from the good, to the bad, to the Borders didn't he?!

Below: A photograph by the notorious Pierre et Gilles. Ask for your free copy in Borders today.

Disclaimer: Jack Cullen does like Borders really, but is a bit tired with all this mourning over what is "basically" just a shop. There are others. And the people who lost their jobs didn't want to work their anyway. They're budding novelists waiting for publishing deals, and now they're all free to go travelling and be free, like the little birdies and bunny rabbits at the end of Sonic levels. Yay.


  1. Very happy you wrote this! Although I will continue to mourn Borders. I am a very happy browser/grazer. And was considering the Taschen Pierre et Gilles 'sailors' book in there today, but held myself back as had just parted with a tenner on a book in the Leeds art gallery sale (well worth a look - 25% off everything).

  2. shut up. you bender.

  3. Ha! A brilliant J of H piece. I feel like you wrote this at high speed, am I right?

  4. > Hi Elli. Thanks! Did you see this cute post about Borders on Style Bubble yesterday?

    > Hi Anonymous. "Grow up" - "you bender" ... such wonderful juxtaposition, and growing fresh out of my blog like a rare mushroom. (Clearly the same Anonymous poster - the time's a give-away)

    > And final person. Thank you, and yes, it was hastefully written, but since it's not a review, more of a narrative piece, and I had places to go!

    JC xx

  5. It's all about Foyles.

  6. Jack don't rise to it! You're a very good writer and that's evident.

    Simon x