In the electronics industry, one of our truisms was that change is the only constant. We also talked and thought a lot about “disruptive technologies.” The term was coined by Clayton Christensen in a 1995 article and elaborated in his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. Even well managed firms (and Borders does not seem to have been one of these), can be blindsided by failing to recognize “the next big thing.” This is because its first manifestations tend to be clunky and crude.
The makers of fine coaches were probably not too worried when the first loud, dirty, and expensive horseless carriages appeared. The empty factories and smokestacks in Rochester, NY are mute witnesses to Kodak’s failure to recognize the threat that digital photography posed to their chemical business. Tower Books, which I loved, failed to develop an online presence, and Borders, among other things, was late to the eReader party.
There is no good news in this for anyone, least of all the 11,000 employees who are out of a job. Or everyone who found wonderful things while browsing the stacks. Even the idea that disappearing big-box bookstores will give indies a second chance seems unlikely. One writer interviewed on NPR, whose books are carried by Borders, suggested that future bookstores may resemble what you find in airports: “cookbooks, vampire novels, and celebrity tell-alls.” http://www.npr.org/2011/07/19/138499967/mich-book-chain-borders-closing-after-40-years
I remember a college town where a wonderful independent bookstore closed soon after a Borders opened. Now it has come full circle and both are gone. All I can think of are these words of the late George Harrison: All things must pass.