RIP, Borderlands Books


San Francisco’s new minimum wage law must be a comfort to the newly laid-off workers.


It’s a shame. As Cory pointed out, the book store is well-run, really at the top of its game. The simple fact is that the cover price of books can’t support the business model when operational costs take a jump like that. They are already at an extremely low margin. Great store, great people.


Maybe if rent prices weren’t so high in San Francisco people wouldn’t need a minimum wage increase.


I would buy a couple of books at Borderlands whenever I was in the city, even though I am trying to reduce my book shelves, on the principle that good bookstores need to be supported. Borderlands is the kind of place where you can walk in and ask to be steered to something good to read, and actually have it work out for the best. This sucks.

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Close down, restructure the company as a worker-owned cooperative (or an LLC where all people involved are owners) and you would likely avoid the need to pay minimum wage (though any revenue of the company would be owned by all involved).


Keeping the minimum wage low keeps the workers in poverty, eligible for Medicaid and food stamps, so the company gets a free ride on the taxpayer’s dime. It’s a shame it’s going to tip this good business into the red, but bookstores have been going under for years. It’s not the minimum wage that killed them, it’s Amazon.


Well said, agree 100%. If anything the minimum wage should be 25$ or 30$ an hour. And like you say, if it weren’t for Amazon they could just raise their prices to help pay for the wages. It would be like the good old days when people could afford 1 book a year but really cherished it.


That would be more attractive if there were likely to be significant profits to be shared. It doesn’t seem like selling books is all that lucrative of a field these days.


Its real shame to lose yet another wonderful brick and mortar book store, but when you cannot afford to pay both high rent and a livable wage to your employees then your business just isn’t viable anymore. Likely they are making the right business decision. Even the big chain brick and mortar book stores aren’t making it, the independent book stores only really stand a chance when operating out of lower cost areas like small towns and communities.


Yes - I point this out many times to people who are even more “pro-free market” than me. They sometimes counter with “get rid of minimum wage and most of welfare”. Which I counter with “We had that. It resulted in a lot of bad poverty, people being over worked and under paid, and the result was labor unions which you abhor.”

You got to have $X to live. I think I’d rather see higher wages, and less welfare. The bureaucracy to keep welfare going is huge, sucking money. I think I’d rather see a modest increase in cost the goods I buy, lower taxes, and the people are getting paid more money directly.

Of course for every McDonalds and Walmart who could either stand to cut their profit margins, or increase their prices slightly and be just fine, there are 20 other smaller companies who don’t enjoy the high margins and ability to absorb the added costs.


Shit - why can’t they raise prices, or have some store policy that makes a surcharge to cover labor? Is that against the law?

You can bet that the same shitheads that oppose raising minimum wage are on the other side of this book pricing.

It’s not against the law. It’s just not commercially viable. Booksellers stretch to razor-thin margins as it is, to compete against Amazon. Raising prices that much will leave them with too few customers.

As always, Amazon is the real problem.


I wonder if the move to e-book readers has to do with it as well. In a city of micro-apartments and shared mini-studios, every inch counts, and physical books are a luxury of space.

If your business relies on underpaying employees or paying them utterly shit wages, then perhaps its a good idea you go out of business.
In New Zealand we have plenty of shops doing just fine with minimum wage about the same, as do other countries. This whole article sounds more like an advert for the store to sell more stuff

I don’t like the spin on it being minimum wage increases being the problem either, but you have to realize than 1) in SF, where the store is located, rents are spiraling ever higher and higher and 2) Bookstores are going out of business all over the US even in lower rent cities due to the popularity of buying books online and the growing popularity of e-books. I don’t know if either trend is there in NZ. Are your bookstores doing fine?


Damn gentrifiers raising the rents by moving into a city that refuses to build new housing!

You can’t raise prices on books. Look at the back of a book you have. See the price printed there? That’s the one you are contractually obligated not to go over (you can do sales and discounts to sell for less but not more).

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And I’m sure everyone on this thread will now boycott Amazon in favor of local bookstores?

Since 95% of my book purchases are ebooks, it is either Amazon, Google Play, or (ew) iBooks for almost all titles. A few academic publishers will sell direct too.

Rather than just throw in the towel, maybe they could change their business model. I’ve never been, but it sounds like their true value isn’t in delivering books at the lowest price, but in their deep knowledge of books that creates (along with their physical store) a reader-friendly environment.

Embrace that. Become a reading lounge where you can get good advice on what to read, good discussion about books and a good cup of coffee. Maybe they’d help procure a hard-to-get volume, but the actual book purchasing would be left to the reader. Bookstore as a service, as it were.