At Borders’ closing, everything on shelves is priced to go. The shelves, too.

April 17, 2011

In this age of Kindles, Nooks and iPads, when was the last time a line formed outside a bookstore? On Sunday, at the Borders in White Flint Mall, nearly a dozen people gathered, waiting for the doors to open one last time.

There is, they say, a price for everything. Old-fashioned printed books apparently are irresistible at 90 percent off.

Many shoppers, such as Francie Kranzberg, went straight for the political stuff: a copy of “Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies About the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual,” by Michael Wolraich.

“I’m looking for Keith Olbermann’s book, too,” she said.

Borders, which filed for bankruptcy in February, closed several stores in the region this weekend. What remained after weeks of progressively deeper discounts was a hodgepodge of stuff that made, in some aisles, for a fascinating study of the region’s needs and persuasions.

(Some shoppers wanted the shelves and cafe equipment — those were the bargain hunters carrying drills, screwdrivers and dollies.)

At the White Flint store, there were enough copies of Jonah Goldberg’s “Proud to Be Right” to supply at least a dozen book clubs. But there was only one copy of Walter Mondale’s autobiography, “The Good Fight: A Life in Liberal Politics.” Plenty of Dickens remained, but only one copy of “Awakenings,” by Oliver Sacks.

“I don’t buy many books anymore,” said Scott Stephens, 42. He’s a loyal iPad reader. But at just a few bucks, the 512-page Ralph Nader epic that Stephens held under his arm was probably too cheap to pass up. “I guess books will go the way of vinyl records — you can still get them, but you have to look.”

At the Wisconsin Avenue store in Friendship Heights on Friday, Glenn Beck was not moving, even for less than 6 bucks. More than 60 copies of “Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure” were still available.

“It’s good to see it in the bookshelves,” said Anthony Green, a shopper who left with “Obama’s Wars,” by Bob Woodward.

Shoppers in Friendship Heights apparently needed love advice.

Just one copy remained of Henry Cloud’s “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping: Be Dating in Six Months or Your Money Back.” Cupid wouldn’t have a better deal for advice on finding a new love interest: $2.50. Close to it was one copy of Dusty Miller’s “Stop Running From Love: 3 Steps to Overcoming Emotional Distancing and Fear of Intimacy.”

What shoppers definitely weren’t looking for was inspirational guidance. Going into the weekend, there were 35 copies of “The Courage Companion: How to Live Life With True Power,” by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons.

In the maps section, these states were still looking for travelers: Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Arkansas.

“It’s now or never,” a sign said nearby. Maybe, in the final hours, a rush for Alabama would ensue. Or Kansas. Or maybe not. Google Maps and GPS devices are pretty powerful.

In downtown Washington at the Borders at 18th and L streets, Beck’s “Broke” was doing much better. Only one copy remained. Rochelle Schweizer’s “She’s the Boss: The Disturbing Truth About Nancy Pelosi” — four copies.

But there were dozens of “The Twelfth Imam,” an evangelical Christian spy thriller by Joel C. Rosenberg, on the shelves.

“If you don’t buy it today, it may not be here tomorrow,” a poster nearby said.

The self-help and health sections didn’t have many options left downtown. With her arms full, Rina Desai had books for the whole family: diabetes, weight loss, nutrition.

She said she was sad about the empty spaces and the closing.

“A lot of knowledge is gone,” Desai said.

Meanwhile, the selection keeps growing online.

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post's local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local