Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hello and Goodbye: A Romance Expert revealed

When I started this blog, I decided to be secretive about the bookstore chain that I worked for. My reasons for doing so were two-fold. First off, the company made no secret of its dislike of employees blogging about working there. Secondly, since I received ARCs as part of my job, I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize the ARC pipeline, but I did want a little leeway to be honest if I didn't like a book. I did know that the store's identity wasn't too hard to deduce for anyone who came here by way of my personal twitter.

However, the point has become moot. I was a Romance Expert for Borders. Sue Grimshaw, Borders' Romance buyer, started the program back in 2005 and I joined up right away. When Sue left Borders for Random House earlier this year, Ellen Clark took over the position and the program up until Borders declared bankruptcy. Liquidation began on July 15th. Ellen's last day was July 29 and her departure marks the official end of the Romance Expert program. You can read our goodbyes at the Borders True Romance blog here.

I'm still working at Borders for the time being. Liquidation is not a pleasant experience and I wasn't about to abandon my team when all hands are needed on deck. My last day will tentatively be around August 15th. By then, I believe the liquidation process will be reaching its conclusion and store hours will be cut. Since I have a full-time job in an academic library, I'll cede my hours to those who need them more. However, if things keep stumping along, I'll keep working.

It's no surprise to me that Borders is closing, but it's a bit of a shock nonetheless. I think I always anticipated the stores would radically close, but I didn't think the entire chain would go under. I've been employed by the company since 2002. That's nine years of my life and I'll be 30 years old in November. I'm suffering from a little identity crisis. For most of my adulthood, I've defined myself as a bookseller. For the last six years, I've been a minor player in the romance genre. Arrogant as it may sound, it was a self-esteem booster to be reporting directly to a buyer who was partly responsible for 13% of the market for print books. My opinions, my thoughts, played some small part in the buyer's decisions as to what and how much to purchase. Also, from a purely fangirl perspective, it was damned awesome getting books by my favorite authors ahead of schedule.

Now I'm simply a reader. Of course, I find myself paralyzed by the decision of what to read. I kept myself on a loose schedule, trying to read four ARCs a week. I rarely re-read anything or dipped into my growing TBR pile. Now I feel vaguely guilty reading the ARCs I have left, like I haven't earned them somehow.  In addition, Borders was like a very current library for me. I could borrow up to two books at a time. I had the freedom to try new authors, to pick up whatever struck my fancy, regardless of format or cost. Now I'm limited by money and my county's library system. I have been demoted from someone special to someone quite ordinary. It is quite lowering to think about.

Perspectives from fellow Borders ex-employees

My time on the Borders - An Eulogy for the Big Red Bookstore

How to Work/How to Shop at a Liquidating Borders

Bookseller Without Borders (an assistant manager who's perhaps a little on the understandably bitter side, chronicling his store's liquidation)

Michele Lee: Day One (an author who worked as a bookseller at Borders. Her store closed during the first round and she also documented each day of liquidation)

There is a very funny webcomic called Mike: Bookseller that is drawn/written by a gentleman who works for Barnes & Noble Booksellers. There's a lot of parallels between the chains, but, obviously, two entered and only one is walking away. Here are some strips he's done so far about Borders's bankruptcy.

I used to say that...
Thousands of voices...
The silver lining to Liquidation

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