Today’s front page of the Rapid City Journal sent shivers through the offices of the South Dakota State Historical Society Press. Borders, the dying megalith of the bricks-and-mortar book world, is closing its store in South Dakota’s second-largest city. For a publisher that has just a handful of bona fide bookstores in its home state, losing its second largest bookstore is not a particularly positive development.
We’re sad to see Borders go. Many within the small press world will choose to denigrate Borders as a chain store, picking an independent store over it every time. We love independent bookstores as well, but Borders buys a lot of books! Rapid City has seen its bookstore numbers dwindle to the point that when Borders closes only Prairie Edge (which is really a gallery, but has a great book selection) will remain. During that times the SDSHS Press has always known that we will sell a good number of books to Borders. This knowledge was comforting, particularly when book sales are down, so we’ll definitely miss it in purely financial terms, but we’ll also miss Borders because it was a bookstore. Regardless of whether a super-chain or a mom-and-pop outfit, a bookstore is a bookstore, and to hear of another one biting the dust is an oh-too-sad moment.
Maybe someone will pick up the mantle and open a new, independent bookstore. I can’t see Barnes & Noble taking the risk, but perhaps someone will see that a locally oriented bookstore might just work. Examples of successful, independent bookstores exist in Pierre (Prairie Pages), Mitchell (Readers’ Den), and Aberdeen (The Little Professor), so there is precedent for a smaller bookstore with a regional/local ethos to do well in South Dakota.
Whatever happens in Rapid City, you can rest assured that the SDSHS Press will continue to publish great books on South Dakota history, and that you will be able to find them in various (perhaps less traditional) places throughout the city and the state. We wish all the employees at Borders the best of luck in locating new jobs, and we’re grateful that they were there for so long, telling people about our books and sharing their love of the printed word.