The local Borders is in its final days here, and everything was as low as 60% here (those Tim Pawlenty books still ain’t budging though).  Naturally I went there to see what deals I could find on graphic novels and since I went in with no expectations, I wasn’t disappointed.  Got a full color version of Marvel’s “Dracula” adaptation for $6 and a copy of “Dazed and Confused” for $4.  Pretty sweet.

I confess I can’t help but find the whole thing a bit surreal.  At this point, Danada is kind of dying.  My neck of the ‘burbs was already in trouble during Dubya’s days, but the economy crash just pushed it over the edge.  I hate to admit it, and I know weeping over a dying soulless corporate chain is pointless, but Borders was a part of my youth (something I similarly thought when Blockbuster folded earlier this year).  I remember finishing my shifts at my high school jobs back in the day, when walking over to the Borders to have coffee and check out CD’s with my friends.  I remember Borders being the big game in town back in the late 90’s.  For most people it was THE chain to get a new book or to get a new CD.  I remember how filled to capacity they were when Harry Potter midnight release parties would go on.  And even though I am physically incapable of listening to one of their songs these days, I remember when singers like N’Sync or Britney Spears were so huge they’d sell a million records in a single DAY, and Borders played a huge part in that.

How did it come to this?  Kindles and iPods?  I’m sure that contributed, but that can’t be the only reason.  I started getting an idea looking through the store though.

It shouldn’t be surprising, but no matter which section of the store I went to, I found a few random DVD’s of the “Twilight” movies lying around.  Despite my hatred for “Twilight” I brushed it off and thought “Eh, whatever”…until I looked at the original price on the sticker.


And RIGHT THEN I knew why stores like Borders and Blockbuster were closing.  Thirty bucks?!  This isn’t for random obscure item on eBay, this is for effin’ “Twilight”!

Forget the bad economy for a minute; how much does it cost these companies to manufacture a DVD?  50 cents?  It can’t cost that much more for the case and the artwork, minus box sets and special editions of course.  I could imagine paying $30 for a two-disc version or a special edition or even a box set, but this was for the SINGLE DISC edition, said it right on the front!  Selling it for $30 in the wake of better options like Netflix or iTunes is not only greedy, it’s stupid and reeks of bad business.

THAT is ultimately why Borders is going out of business; they didn’t just bet on the wrong horse, they bet HARD.  It’s not their fault that people began forgoing books and CD’s more and more in favor of digital options.  The business world is still adapting to that.  It’s not even their fault that they invested in such large volume and store space (seriously, ever been in a Borders?) because hey, who DOESN’T need books and music?  Where they went wrong is sticking to their inflated prices even in the face of these less expensive options.  You could get away with charging $20 or more for a CD or DVD back in the 90’s when the mediums were new (and believe me, they did), but that’s not going to cut the mustard anymore.

Now this may put my nerdiness into sharper focus than ever before for some people (still single, ladies!), but I always took my economic cues from the Ferengi from “Star Trek”, patricularly “Deep Space Nine”.  No, really.  The Ferengi were one of my favorites parts of DS9, minus stuff like Quark dressing like a woman (MY EYES!).  I liked how the writers really tried to make something of the Ferengi after “Next Geneartion” made them into a joke, and really looked at how a culture completely based around business and profit would work.  What their values would be, what their religions would be like, etc.  But one thing I found interesting is how the Ferengi’s goal of profit, in some ways, made them better than the Federation themselves.

This manifested in a few different ways: Although the Ferengi have the occasional skirmish (mostly on TNG) they solve problems through hegemony rather than war or genocide.  Racism is unheard of in Ferengi society because not selling something to someone because of arbitrary differences like race means giving your business one less customer (though in fairness Ferengi culture is legendarily sexist).  Ferengi society is a pure meritocracy, and there’d be little profit or sense in things like aristocracy or monarchy.  Rather than profit from harmful products like alcohol or cigarettes, Ferengi try to sell products that won’t kill their customer base for the simple fact it would severely reduce it.  Most purchases are practical ones, with the hopes of putting it towards making more profit.  They view economics as one great continuum, with all the planets in the universe having too much of one thing and not enough of the other, encouraging trade and understanding between all cultures.

I could go on with this all day, but the big thing I want to emphasize is this: on top of everything else, Ferengi don’t have a class system, and don’t see the point in an “upmarket” when they could make just as much money if not more selling affordable products at cheap prices to lots of people, as opposed to expensive and rare products to a select few.  THIS is the attitude businesses need to embrace nowadays if they are to survive, lest they go the way of Borders or Blockbuster.  Both companies could have survived and perhaps or evolved if they had changed with the times (Borders embracing e-books and Blockbuster embracing kiosk rentals, though both seemed embraced them on sufferance), but they dug in their heels in spite of all the evidence and paid the price for their poor business and their arrogance.

In fairness, I know evolution is hard.  Sometimes you’re too old or stuck in your ways to begin again.  I know plenty of old-fashioned printers out of work right now because of the shift to digital printing rather than old-fashioned presses.  Heck back in the 90’s there were tons of artists who went hungry simply because they couldn’t or wouldn’t learn Photoshop.  But really, I’m kind of directing this article more towards creative people (artists, writers, musicians, etc) who hold onto older methods past the point when its practical.  For example, if you’re an artist right now who doesn’t have a website or a blog or a Deviant Art account right now, I have no sympathy for you.  I knew a few professors back in college who fought off the internet tooth and nail, which blew my mind.  This is no longer something “handy to have”, this is ESSENTIAL.  If you think there’s isn’t value or need of creating or distributing your art by digital means, which is infinitely cleaner, more efficient, and easier than analog, you’re missing out.

I dunno.  I write stuff like this because I feel we all have such great potential within us, and don’t want to see it go to waste.  In short?  Don’t be stupid.  Don’t let yourself get left behind because you charged $30 for “Twilight”.