|Respect the Internet, if you don't it will crush you.|
I have not set foot in a Borders for quite a while, but when I did, I rarely bought anything. The prices were too high and many of the books and magazines were obviously over-handled by the "customers" (patrons?) and in used condition.
The stores encouraged extended browsing, which people took full advantage of. In fact, I believe Borders stole a lot of patrons away from public libraries for the last decade or so. Why wait for the new releases at your local library when there 100x copies, a coffee shop, and plush seating at Borders?
I think most people used Borders' brick and mortar stores as their personal Amazon showroom (like they use Best Buy for electronic purchases today). I sometimes wondered how the Borders' business model worked years ago with their massively large stores, isles full of sprawled readers (some with pads of papers and pens taking notes out of freshly printed books), and light lines at the checkout.
It was almost as if the book chain thought they were successful if their stores were filled with bodies (not sales). I can imagine them saying, "Sure the customers hang out all day, but eventually they will buy something."
Like many, I would head to Borders to kill some time while waiting for another appointment, use free wifi, read their magazines, or listen to new music. Then I would go home and order it cheaper on Amazon. I did buy a few things there admittedly, but mostly I went to check out purchases that I was thinking of buying at Amazon.
What killed Borders Books? In my opinion the internet killed Borders, just like it killed Tower Records, the music business and all of the other extinct media chain retail outlets. Books are next on the chopping block and not because ebooks are finally gaining traction after being out there for years. It is the actual publishers that are stopping their print versions and going directly electronic. Once enough readers go electronic, paper books will largely go away.
As a librarian it pains me to say it but the internet will kill and destroy everything that it can do better (example: deliver content; music, movies, books, information, etc.). I was there in the late 90's as a young record producer working for a mid-size independent label when Napster and then Mp3's totally wiped out Hollywood like a Tsunami. We were caught with our pants down not sure how to react.
To be honest we in the music business at that time did not really fully understand what was happening and therefore we were too paralyzed to react. We could not get it into or heads that we could not sell a product that you could hold in your hands and our whole business model was built on distribution channels. We really said to each other, "People will buy the CD, because the want the photos of the band, the cool artwork, the liner notes!" Back in the day he who could place his CD in the most stores around the world won (or at least had a chance to make money). I once found an album I produced in an Amsterdam HMV and thought that I had accomplished it all. Once listeners did not need the CD, Jewel Case, and the liner notes, we were cooked.
The book business has had quite an opportunity to witness the internet swallowing up entire markets, so I think they are more prepared to react and control the bleeding. Borders had apparently long leases on their stores, which they could not get out from under in time. Like many others, they acted too late and got squashed.
The Kindle, Nook, and other reading specific devices may survive the slew of tablets coming out. But then again, maybe they are just the Walkmans, the Minidisc players, and the Mp3 players of the 2010s.