It’s more than a book store; it’s a really big book store with gadgets

As a winter break family outing yesterday afternoon, Annette and Will and I went to the new Borders after we picked Will up from school. And yes, our family is such that going to a book store is considered a “family outing.” This new store is a “concept store,” and fairly accurately summarized in this CNNMoney.com article, “Borders Celebrates Grand Opening…” Borders, which has its headquarters in Ann Arbor and which has been hemorrhaging money for a few years now, sees the store as at least one of the futures of the business. I guess.

Anyway, the store is located in a big-box strip mall over near Ann Arbor-Saline Road in the space that used to be a CompUSA store. One of the reasons why Borders opened this store here is because the Borders suits are here, and when we were there Tuesday, there seemed to be tours of various Borders employees underway, which was a little weird. It’s a big store with snazzy lighting and furnishings and all of that, kind of arranged in a sort of wheel/spoke pattern. In the middle, there were sections of food and wine, travel, exercise and diet, and something else I’m not remembering.

My wife the Children’s Lit professor scholar noticed that a good half of the book space of the story could be included in her classes: besides a big children’s book section, there was a lot of “young adult” and whatever the book category is called for the kind of junior-aged high school kids, and a very large section on Manga, Anime, comic books, and graphic novels. So much for the “kids today” not doing any reading– or I guess the “kids today” just aren’t reading “Literature,” which was sort of shoved off into a corner of the store.

But probably more than half of the store was devoted to the miscellaneous stuff that all big box book stores sell nowadays (stationary, candy, bags, notebooks, etc.), music, and “gadgets.” Over in one corner they had a LongPen station, which was (apparently) invented by Margaret Atwood to do virtual book signings. I couldn’t find a picture on the very bad LongPen web site, but basically, it’s kind of a station sort of thing a bit bigger than an ATM with a camera and a microphone, a screen that would presumably show the author doing the signing, and a surface where you put your book and the mechanical pen thing. I dunno. The argument is that these people are saving the environment by reducing travel. It seems to me though that they’d do a lot more environmental benefit by publishing fewer books on paper and making eBooks compelling and affordable. Really, I think the main reason for the device is that Margaret Atwood (and others like her) must really hate to travel.

And then on the other side of things, somewhere between a half and a third of the store, is a very large technology stuff/gadget section. They had the Sony Reader on display, which makes sense as a book store techno-gadget (and after playing with it for about 10 minutes, my reaction to the grey and $300 price tag was who in the hell would want to buy this thing?), and they also had a display of those frames with the electronic pictures in them and some exercise gadgets, too. They were selling FlipVideo cameras and other digital cameras (I knew way more about the FlipVideo than the sales dude), and there probably were some non-iPod mp3 players in there too. They had some computer kiosks where you could download mp3s to your iPod (or whatever) right there, or you could burn them to a CD, for about a buck apiece, and they had a station where you could print out your digital pictures. And then they also had a station where you could print a customized book (I couldn’t get that thing to work) and a station where you could do family genealogy (??).

Anyway, it was an interesting idea and I’m sure it will evolve, but right now, it had the look and feel of a bunch of stuff thrown against a wall to see if it would stick. eBooks and custom printing of trade books hasn’t quite taken off yet, and it seems to me that the only people who would use an in-store/f2f service to do things like download mp3s to a disk or print digital pictures are folks who aren’t all that comfortable with technology in the first place. And genealogy? Seriously?

So we’ll see what happens over the next couple years. We did all spend some money there. I bought Blogging Heroes more or less as a risky but potential BAWS resource since I have not had any luck so far getting high profile bloggers to participate in my survey or case studies. Though after looking it up on amazon.com (which is what I link to above), which features some free chapters and a $5.38 price tag, I feel like I’ve been ripped off, which is not a good feeling to have upon reflecting on a new store.

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