Bookshelves, blotted paper, and fresh coffee are perks of the traditional bookstore experience that no virtual imitation can top; yet for the nation's second- largest bookseller nothing seems enough. Bankrupt and broken, Borders has gone bust.
Parallel to New York's Penn Station, the Border's bolstered white and red sign hung above it's two revolving doors that spun ferociously as they had done for years to mark best-selling book debuts and signings.
On Friday the doors spun with a new rhythm. A closing down sale marked the beginning of Borders' liquidation process and the start of a book shopping frenzy. Everything Must Go, 10%-40% off, Everything on Sale. The bold yellow fluorescent signs were clear but yet customers seemed confused.
With books stacked high above their heads, disgruntled buyers went up to desolate workers demanding books that were out of stock. We are closing down, we can't make orders, each employee echoed tirelessly, while trying to maintain order among the jungle of books that were tossed and discarded effortlessly by hungry bargain hunters.
Among the bustle and havoc, Martha Hedges a retired nurse and pianist in her 70's, stood out for her composure as she flicked through the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which was marked down to a modest price of $19.99.
This is heart breaking, Hedges said. Soon there will be no bookstores and we will be looking at books in glass cases at libraries just like museums, she said. Hedges complained about the crowd but could not resist the price of Shakespeare's works that she was buying for her grandson.
It was ultimately the discounted prices that fueled the force of people who had escaped New York's smoldering heat wave only to flock into a battle for the best bargain, under an air-conditioned room that barely met the demand.
Children moaned and cried over films and computer games reduced by 20%. Friends debated whether a 10% discount on fiction was worth ditching an electronic Kindle version. Others just walked around dazed and confused browsing through Papyrus cards and asking employees what exactly was going on.
I read it in the news; I just wanted to see if it was true, an elderly man asked as he stared at the heaps of books on the floor in utter dismay. With two more months until its official closure, employees are bracing themselves for weeks of mayhem to come, as prices are set to plummet.
Once Borders operated more than 1,200 bookstores in America. But the company began closing stores after that peak in 2003. When Borders filed for bankruptcy protection in February, the company had 642 stores. More than 250 were closed in recent months before the liquidation ruling on Thursday.
At 6.pm on Friday-the first day of the closing down sale-the steps outside Borders Penn Station were flooded with people browsing through their purchases. Looking back onto the store the revolving doors moved more slowly as buyers lost momentum, which drew attention to a recurring red sign. Coffee is no longer served here. We apologize for the inconvenience.