Looking For Bargains At A Closing Borders Store

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Two weeks ago I received an email that the Borders store at Santana Row was one of 200 stores being closed as part of the bankruptcy deal and there would be a 20% to 40% clearance sale. (My buddy got an email for the Oakridge Mall store even though the Santana Row store was closer to him, probably because he spends more money there and I always find what I want at Santana Row.) The store on the first weekend was busy as people stood in line with  hand baskets filled with books. Which begs the obvious question, where were they before the going out of business sale?

A week later the shelves were thoroughly disorganized and the carpet wasn’t vacuumed, reminding me of the used bookstore that was in downtown San Jose during the 1990s (except they had a really friendly cat who kept the mice away). When I went in today, the shelves were somewhat straightened up and the carpet vacuumed. I was surprised to see plenty of books still available. I shouldn’t have been. For a going out of business sale, Amazon was still much cheaper.

The current 25% to 50% off sale is somewhat misleading. Nearly all the books were 25% off and all the magazines were %50 off. Signs were posted for 30% off on the more expensive computer and science books. These are not great prices. I could take the 33% off coupon that I got via email to a Borders store that wasn’t closing to get a better price. I don’t think the books will start moving off the shelves until the discount drops to 50% off.

But there are bargains to be found in the bargain books department. Many of the books I picked up over the last two weeks were priced at $5.99 or less. With the 20% or 25% off discount, and another 10% off discount for being a Borders member, these low prices became much lower. When I went into the store today, the bargain books department was reduced to nothing but a few shelves.

Here are the books that I got so far:

Fiction

  • “A Most Wanted Man” by John le Carre
  • “The Malloreon: Volume 2” by David Eddings
  • “Duma Key” by Stephen King
  • “By Schism Rent Asunder” by David Webber

Non-Fiction

  • “The Great Depression Ahead: How to Prosper in The Debt Crisis of 2010-2012” by Harry S. Dent, Jr.
  • “The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World” by Steven Johnson
  • “The Conscience of A Liberal” by Paul Krugman

The only non-bargain book that I picked up was “The Malloreon: Volume 2” by David Eddings. I had gotten the first volume a month ago and was planning to get the second volume before the store closing was announced. Eddings wrote fantasy with a large cast of characters and sweeping events that seems almost effortless in execution. This is something I want to emulate when revising my own first novel. I had read both the “The Belgariad” and “The Malloreon” (five books in each series) when they first came out when I was still a teenager. Having read the four omnibus volumes back-to-back since the beginning of the new year, I was overwhelmed with tears when I read the last lines: “And so, my children, the time has come to close the book. There will be other days and other stories, but this tale is finished.”

Once the Borders store closes at Santana Row, the heart of Santana Row will be gone. Barnes & Nobles will probably not put a store there since it is halfway between their stores at The Pruneyard and Steven Creek Boulevard. An independent bookstore couldn’t afford the rent for such a marquee location. I’m not sure what will end up going into that two-story location, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple relocated their Valley Fair Mall store from across the street. Besides the nearby movie theaters, there will be no reason to go to Santana Row. Bookstores are the great equalizer in society. Where else can you go after watching a movie and picking up a mocha at the coffee shop to browse the newest and greatest?

Ceramics, DVD’s & Books

I was expecting a quiet day at my ceramics class on Saturday with many of us glazing our last pieces for finals next week. Since this week was the annual three-day ceramics sale that funds the ceramics program at San Jose City College, our studio space was overrun by former instructors and students who made the pottery wheels disappear, swept and mopped the floor, and rearranged the tables to display an overflow of ceramics coming out of boxes in newspaper wrappings.

Those of us still glazing our pieces got shoved into the far corner to share limited space among the numerous buckets of glazes. A pain since we our large pieces weren’t that simple to glaze. My large piece, Janus, the Roman god of doors and beginnings, in 25 pounds of recycled clay, took two hours to hand-paint a half-dozen glazes on. After that got put on the shelf for the kiln, I dipped an abstract teapot into two glazes, and made a test glaze from powder for four test pieces. I went home more exhausted than usual, spending the rest of the weekend watching DVDs and reading books.

THE DVD’S

“Battlestar Galactica: Razor,” a two-hour movie that’s being sandwiched between the end of Season Three and the beginning of Season Four of the popular science fiction TV series, set on the Battlestar Pegasus after Commander Lee “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Bamber) takes command. Newly promoted Executive Officer Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen) recalls joining the Pegasus with Rear Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) shortly before the Cylons attacked the colonial fleet, and becomes suspicious of Captain Kara “Starbucks” Thrace (Katee Sackoff) during a mission to track down an old Cylon starbase. Meanwhile, Admiral William “Thrusher” Adama (Edward James Olmos) recalls his younger days (played by Nico Cortez) during the first Cylon war, falling out of the sky from an aerial battle that destroyed his ship to parachute on top of a hidden Cylon basestar conducting secret experiments on humans to create the biological-based Cylon. Past, present and future collides in a final battle between the Pegasus and the basestar.

“Flight of the Living Dead” (a.k.a, “Zombies on a Plane”) was a DVD that I wanted to get last month. Horror movies generally follow a set formula (i.e., teenagers involved in sex and/or drugs die a horrible death in the 1980’s slasher films). The formula for this zombie movie is that anyone with an attitude on the airplane gets killed by the zombies. A laugh riot ensues as you got all the crazy stereotypes—scientists “who should know better” transporting a sexy carrier of the zombie in the cargo hold, young lovers cheating on each other in the restrooms, a fast talking criminal handcuffed to a dour cop, an air marshal who looks like a drug rehab dropout, a professional golfer polishing a putter with a whiny wife at his side, and a nun overwhelmed by sinners and zombies alike—on a doomed airplane over the Atlantic Ocean in a severe electrical storm. The funniest zombie was the one who couldn’t undo his seat belt and desperately tries to bite at anyone running past by his aisle seat. The ending was somewhat predictable as the plane crashes somewhere with the usual assortment of humans and zombies surviving the wreckage. If you’re a zombie fan, this is a pure zombie fest.

THE BOOKS

“Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, Volume 9” by Kio Shimoku just came out. This is the first magna series I ever read, starting with the first volume that came out in 2005 and I’ve pre-ordered every volume since then. There’s no overriding story arc in this slice-of-life series about an odd assortment of Japanese college students who are fans of anime, video games and cosplay, but don’t fit in with any of the other clubs. The story I identify the most with is Ogiue’s decision to submit her work professionally. She asks her boyfriend, Sasahara, who has a part-time job as a manga editor, to critique her work and she reacts badly when he tells her that her 50-page managa lacks focus. When he visits her the next day, he’s surprised that she had revised her work overnight, which isn’t easy considering the amount of drawings and text involved without using a computer, and proclaims that the new version is better. When she pulls out an 80-page story for him to look at, he wonders if their relationship can survive the critique process. I’m disappointed that this was the last volume of the series, as most of the club members from the beginning are now graduates.

I started reading “In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing The Second World War” by David Reynolds. Most people know that Winston Churchill as the widely quoted leader who led Great Britain during the darkest hours of World War II, but very few know that it was his writings that funded his long political career (which is quite different from today’s politicians panhandling for money). After being tossed out of office following the war, and finding himself short of money, he embarks on writing a six-volume memoir of the war as a follow-up to his five-volume memoir on World War I. If you’re a history buff and/or a writer (I’m both), this book will interest you.

The Harry Potter Line

My friend and I stood in line for the “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows” by J.K Rowlings. Well, not quite. We went over to Borders at Santana Row three hours before release of the newest and final Harry Potter novel. No lines other than a short line to confirm the reservation for the book and get a wristband for the midnight madness. Masking tape on the floor outlined the line to cash register, starting at the romance paperbacks, running through the aisles of horror, science fiction and fantasy paperbacks, and the last mile loaded with Harry Potter merchandise.

The upstairs seem normal enough as we made our counter-clockwise prowl of the floor. The children department had way too many young schoolgirls for a Friday night. When we got into the nook and crannies of the computer department, where young couples try to make out, we find witches, wizards and more schoolgirls. The line outside has grown longer when we left. I’m glad no one mistaken me for Rubeus Hagrid, the Hogswarts gamekeeper, because of my long beard. The last thing I needed was a bunch of schoolgirls chasing me down the street.

We drove briefly by the Barnes & Noble store on Steven Creek Boulevard to check out the Harry Potter line over there. We found a Harry Potter party for the kids inside the children department. The last time we drove by was when Bill Clinton was signing his memoirs in June 2004. Traffic was a mess with the Secret Service vehicles and the Clinton limo trying to get out of the parking lot that night. Bill and Hillary stepped out to wave to everyone for five minutes before the traffic jam cleared up and the motorcade departed. We were three cars away from the former first couple. The closest I ever came to a president was a quarter-mile from George H.W. Bush in San Francisco when my father and I drove home from our construction jobs just hours before the Loma Prieta earthquake.

I never got caught up in the Harry Potter craze enough to read the books. I saw the movies that I thought they were all entertaining even if I didn’t understand some of the details. I been reading too many other books series in recent years, including Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” (seven books), Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” (eight books), Kim Harrison’s “Hollows” (four books), E.E. Knight’s “Vampire Earth” (four books), Karen Traviss’s “Wess’har Wars” (five books), and various re-readings of fantasy classics from David Eddings (16 books) and Terry Brooks (six books). Now that the last Harry Potter book is out, I’ll wait until the paperbacks for all seven books come out for Christmas (hint, hint) before I start reading that series.

The Creeping Price of Stephen King’s Cell

I recently placed my pre-order for the paperback edition of “Cell” by Stephen King  coming out in November. What’s the retail price of this zombie-on-a-cell-phone treat? It’s $9.99 USD (not including tax). That’s just about as much as a trade paperback. This “premium” paperback which is becoming the favorite format and price point between hardbacks and mass market paperbacks.

Prices are creeping up to $7.99 for an average-sized paperback and $8.99 USD for a larger paperback. Stephen King’s newest paperback is pricey for 480 pages. I used to get a month’s worth of reading—about ten paperbacks—for $30 USD in the early 1980’s when I was a teenager. It’s getting to the point that I’m waiting for the hardback to land in the bargain bin, or do a four-for-three paperback sale at Amazon or Borders.

What is a poor reading junkie supposed to do?