For someone who has spent a fair share of money in Borders the news that Borders is going down hit me, but not only because a major book store chain was in serious trouble but also because the way I see it it is also a setback for the medium in general. Compared to anime, manga isn’t the most prominent or popular among fans and moreso less popular among the public.
Manga is not cheap and I can understand why many don’t buy as much as much as they would like to, as I also would like to purchase manga more often. I know the feeling well. Personally, I used to reserve a certain amount of money to buy some manga I knew I just had to buy. Part of it was also the mentally that I was doing the right thing and support the industry even if I was blowing part of my allowance when I could easily get it for free. Sure, I could be spending on other superficial stuff like expanding further my wardrobe and buying some expensive clothing brands only because of its name only. Or for a chance I could be giving back what I’ve been given plenty of times. Luckily, there were ways to soften the blow to continue to thank companies for their patronage over the years. Here is where beside from regular buying I liked about Borders and found that like also other stores they had a positive impact in people new to the medium.
It Had Deals
Borders scored some high points with me back in the day when I found they had these great deals of buy 2 manga then get the 3rd one free which eventually became buy 3 then get the 4th one free or something very similar. Well, that’s the idea. I really liked these deals because it motivated people to buy more manga which meant they could complete a whole collection as well as giving them a chance to explore other titles as well, which I’m sure it was the strategy to begin with. I could buy two volumes of manga of a series I really liked then the third book could be from a title I was planning on checking out. I could also buy two and the third one would complete the collection that I wanted. Buy some manga get another free sounded reasonable and tactical. Some of these deals became rare and rarer as the years went on but it was a great strategy to attract customers that were manga shy.
I’m going to emphasize something that Borders and these business did (and still do) for the medium and for fans in places where anime and manga aren’t popular.
It gave manga Exposure
I know that it may not seem like much, but I think the medium needed that. Depending on where you live manga (and anime) might not be so popular or even be known much. I was surprised to find that there were comments left by anime fans that complained that in their country no one seemed to know or was into anime/manga and that apparently they were the only ones. Anime is popular enough that more than once I’ve seen in some lectures students sport some type of anime related products or make some reference to the medium (the occasion played out that way). Anime and manga are (still) becoming and are in the process of becoming extremely popular in the world that in a couple of more years it’d be more difficult to encounter people that have not at least heard of the medium. Though as many anime fans and moreso long time anime fans know the medium can be highly misrepresented and misunderstood – further exposition and a better representation of the medium can help earn some positive points with newcomers and the general public. There’s always a part of me that wishes for the world to know that there’s more to anime than Pokemon and Adult Swim shounen, and even those shows can be misunderstood. In the worst case scenario they’ll know more than they want to and in the best scenario they’ll gain a far more cultivated idea of anime and manga is about than they did before. We have little to lose here.
manga cafes where you can read lots of manga. Knowing me I couldn’t concentrate. Still great idea
The fall of stores such as Borders is regrettable enough because people will be losing their jobs and also because this is also a set back – great or minor – for the medium where anime and manga had little exposure. The medium could benefit from gaining more positive exposure. Anime has already gotten its spot on TV, manga I still don’t see it as a big thing. Things are slowly changing and book stores company have to come up new and better ideas to make business the best way they can so this doesn’t repeat in other places.
To my surprise (and for those who didn’t know either) there are places like manga cafes which I thought were only in Japan, now available in some areas. Who knows maybe they could be a possible solution to look into for these book stores, if not it could use some tweaking to make it work. Manga Cafes are still rare, though personally I think that this is a step in the right direction and worth looking into for the medium to have more exposure and for these companies.
From the cashier that recognized that seinen manga at the checkout and praised me for it then proceeded to put the manga in an anime related bag of a show I hadn’t heard of that made me feel a slightly uncomfortable. To those other curious buyers that gave you an odd look because while you were going to buy some 4kidz material they were probably saw when they randomly turned on the TV. To the lady that had never heard of manga before and wondered what was you were buying. To the cashier that secretly had a good idea what manga was and nodded at you. Buying at Borders was an experience. A mixed bag at times but still an experience. It wasn’t the fan wearing anime related products, one making anime clubs, or engaging in anime related conversations. Borders and these type of stores were (are) the place for manga and books and where anime were at mixed with the dozens of other books with a subtle message that said: “Anime and manga is here and it is here to stay”
Giving credits to Border but also speaking generally like I have, the exposure that these stores give anime and manga is the message that they are near you. There will always be other ways to purchase manga, however, only a few will actually get to see manga around them. Right there in the shelves. Accessible. Palpable. Manga actually near you and for the world to see. Not the end of the world, for there will other stores that will do similarly, however the point is that manga had its place in these stores in the sea of books. Visible. Right in the open and everyone who also went to these stores could also get an idea of what manga was making it possible for them to have the chance to find out for themselves if they would randomly one day become interested and tactfully skimp through some of the material out of curiosity and think that it was totally different from what they originally imaged. This is not so bad they thought. Maybe they could grow to like it after all.
Good bye, Borders. Good bye.