Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Singapore 'Borders' closed

It is curtains for Borders in Singapore.

The only functional Borders outlet at Parkway Parade closed its door on Monday. For good.

Last Saturday, I made a trip to the bookstore. Books were being sold off at 70 per cent discount. I knew that all the good books would have gone by now. Still, I wanted to go to the bookstore one last time. So, I went. Like a pilgrim, I had to make that last journey.

As expected, there was a good crowd. Most of the books left in the store were crap. Yet, people thronged the shelves that had some stock left on them. Half the bookstore's shelves were without books. There were 'Out of Bound' signs to prevent the public from entering those spaces.

I spent more than an hour looking for books I could buy. I found a couple of novels and two books on screenplay writing worth buying. My daughter found two books that she wanted to buy. I waited for almost half an hour to make payment for my purchase. It was all very civil. When I paid for the books, the counter clerk looked me in the eye and said, "Thank you". If it were business as usual, she would have said, "See you again, sir." We both knew it was the last time. But there was nothing on her face. No smile, no sorry, no regret.

I stepped out of the store and looked at it one last time.

With Borders' closure, a chapter has ended for book-lovers in Singapore. I will miss a bookstore like Borders. I think it was not lack of customer support that killed the store. It was the rent. Singapore's escalating rent is killing many businesses, most of them small businesses. Selling books is not just business--it is more than that. Bookstores should be given the non-profit treatment, and every Mall should give discounts in the rental for bookstores. Bookstores are like parks in a city. What kind of ROI do we expect from them? If a bookstore goes, the loss is ours.


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