86°Partly Cloudy

Anyone Gonna Miss Borders? What’s the Best Bookstore Left?

by Prince Of Petworth February 24, 2011 at 11:00 am 56 Comments

I’m sure most have heard by now that DC’s Borders bookstores (and many others) are closing. On Sat. I stopped by the one one on 18th and L St, NW and it felt like a funeral. While people were taking advantage of the 30% off deals, I constantly heard hushed conversations saying, “it’s so sad” and people talking to the employees saying, “I’m so sorry”. I know when I worked downtown I loved browsing this particular store. It was a lifesaver. Having said that, I did do more browsing than purchasing. Will others miss Borders?

And with Borders soon to be gone (an employee I spoke with said by April depending on supplies) who does this leave as best bookstore left (new not used) Kramerbooks in Dupont, Barnes & Nobles downtown by the E St. Cinema or Politics and Prose in Van Ness/Chevy Chase?

Of course in July we learned Politics and Prose was for sale

  • JD32

    There’s a B&N in Georgetown, too.

    • Anonymous

      FAKE: AWW noo.. I love bookstores

      REALITY: I love to browse in bookstores but I actually get it on amazong cause it’s cheaper and easier.

      That is why they are closing

    • Anonymous

      best one.

  • Wong Tong

    Books a Million!

    Even with the 20-30% off MSRP, you can still find most books cheaper on amazon.com.

    By shopping here now, you’re not helping Borders… it’s too late for that. You’re helping their creditors, i.e., the book publishers whose books sit on their shelves!

    • Anonomi

      I really didn’t care about helping Borders when I took advantage of 20% off a few random but delectable-looking cookbooks.

      And really, isn’t it more important to ensure that publishers keep on publishing real live books? Not everything should be available on a Kindle.

    • Pete

      Books-a-Million might possibly have the WORST selection I have ever seen. Crown goes to Kramer…. no a huge choice, but quality stuff. I think I go at least four times a week to browse/buy/drink.

  • PG

    I won’t miss them. I usually only buy books if it’s one I know I’ll want to read more than once or for gifts (and I’ll occasionally impulsively buy something that’s cheap and interesting looking.) Pretty much everything else I can get from the library. And the last time I checked their music section, cds were like $20-25!

    Daedauls Books in Columbia (and I think Baltimore) has a great selection of discounted books and cds. When I worked in Columbia I allowed myself to shop there mayabe once a month. Otherwise I would spend way too much there.

  • DCster

    Borders is hard to replace (though not as much of a loss as Olsson’s), but with all of the renovated libraries opening up, that will cushion the blow. Of the remaining bookstores I like Kramerbooks. Very local, very trendy.

    • Rukasu1

      But very overpriced, but tis the sad state of brick and mortar shops

  • shaq

    Borders still sells books??

    I thought they only sold calendars, stuffed animals, CDs, DVDs, backpacks, pencil carriers, notebooks, snow globes, coffee, blah blah.

    Seriously, though, last time I went to a Borders, it looked like it was about 40% books, and it was impossible to find anything except for the newest of the new releases. Their fiction section was smaller than their food or self-help sections. I think the section on parenting was larger than their nonfiction section too.

    • steve

      true, they definitely sold way too much crap. how many kitty calendars does the world need?

      • anonymous


      • Anonymous

        I think they had to do that so people would buy something when they came to browse the books. Most of us who read a lot either borrow from the library, buy online where it’s a little cheaper, buy used books that are a lot cheaper, buy at the few remaining independent stores to support small business or because it’s a better experience, or buy electronic versions for the Nook/Kindle.

      • no

        The answer is 42. Ha! Now we have the ultimate question to the ultimate answer. Program Earth is complete.

        BTW: that’s from a book I purchased in the clearance rack at a boarder’s a couple of years ago.

        • shaq


          Actually, the question was, “How much money will the movie version of the book make at the box office?” Answer: 42 dollars.

  • steve

    I have to say that I like Borders better than any other new books bookstore in DC. They also used to have an excellent music selection with more obscure stuff than you’d find at a B&N and good arts publications in the magazine section. Sad.

    • shaq

      Yes, your comment is sad.

      • Stavros

        steve’s right. They used to have a great country music section.

  • Curtis

    It’s hard to compare the narrowly-focused Politics and Prose and the tiny, limited-selection Kramerbooks to a large retailer like Borders. I miss Olsson’s the most. They were great.

    • shaq

      Yet both stores have better selections than Borders!

    • anon

      Curious what you think P&P is narrowly focused on? Good books?

      • shaq


      • Curtis

        The adult section in the back focuses strictly on bondage novels.

        • anon

          hah. bummer.

    • victoria

      Narrowly focused??!!! Have you ever been to Politics and Prose?

      • thedofc


  • Dittle

    I have to say I will not miss Borders. For many years I did shop there for my books, but quite frankly – books are very expensive. Now I only buy books if it is a classic hard cover or something I would like to refer to again. I have found the DC library system to more than adequate for my reading needs. I am not a Kindle on book device reader yet, so I love being to reserve my books online and pick up them at my local Shaw branch. I can renew online and also browse and reserve the DVD titles. Much more convenient and way less expensive than Borders. I have to say – I won’t miss it at all.

    Now for what it’s worth – Kramer Books is the best. I have been going there for about 20 years. Great book selection, and if I am not buying books, they have great food and a wonderful atmosphere.

    • steve

      I disagree that Kramer’s has a good selection. There isn’t an art section at all and the travel section takes up 1/4 of the back room. They do have an appropriate selection for the neighborhood, but unless you want to read religious philosophy or mainstream fiction, there’s not much else.

      • anono

        at least they have a better selection of beer than borders.

        • Pete


  • Anonymous

    Where can we go to pick up married men now?

    • shaq


    • anon


      • cia


    • PG

      Good Guys

    • andy

      Your favorite local gay bar.

    • MtP

      dog park

  • Anonymous

    Regardless of whether you like Borders or not, the downsize is sad news. The march towards the death of the printed book continues…

    • Anonymous

      The Amazonian and Indonesian forests clap in gratitude.

    • miked

      it’s really just the continuation of the death of big box stores. remember Linens and Things, Comp USA, Circuit City?

  • Anonymous

    Second Story rules.

  • anon.

    Question: Is there a difference between Barnes and Noble and Borders?

    I’m not much of a book buyer–as an employee of the Library of Congress I have access to everything I need and only buy books I want to own, which is only my hobbies and my favorite authors.

    • Anonymous

      B&N has an electronic reader, Borders doesn’t.

    • grumpy

      According to a friend of mine who worked for a year or so at Barnes and Noble, yes. She said B&N was a highly corporate style of management where their goal was to make money selling things and those things happened to be books. Borders, on the other hand (and according to her) cared more about the actual bookselling business and made a greater effort to hire employees who actually had knowledge about the books in their store. I don’t know if this held true as Borders expanded and grew in the time since she worked there in the late 90s, but fwiw I heard the same thing later from someone else.

      • es

        I don’t know if it is still the case, but when I worked at the 18th and L store (04-05) most of the booksellers had college degrees and many had masters degrees. Lots of English majors and the like, but also many people (like myself) who worked there evenings and weekends after our 9-5 office jobs.

        I think this probably ceased to matter as the internet grew more useful–why ask a random bookstore employee to recommend something you might like to read when Amazon et. al. will do it for you?

      • spookiness

        Good analysis. For a business to stay in business, particular brick&mortar, they’ve got to move the goods.

      • cia

        I had several friends who worked at Borders in the 2000s (up until about 2007) and I would say that’s accurate of them from what I know. Can’t comment on B&N’s policies although personally I’ve always preferred them over Borders.

  • Fully agree with the assessment that Borders was not a bookstore. If I were in the market for teenager mass-market vampire toys, I suppose this would be devastating news. I’d ritually sacrifice kittens, babies, and puffins to bring back Olssons, but Borders can, in the words of a very wise woman, piss up a rope.

    As for the survivors, I’ve been a fan of Kramerbooks since forever. It’s small & limited, sure, but there’s more quality per square foot there than any Borders.

  • shaq

    It’s true that the Twilight movie releases seemed lead to lots of Twilight-themed parties and setups at Borders.

  • Anonymous

    What this city needs is another sucker corporation to open a nice, clean, well lit area where one can hang out for hours on end nursing a deluxe coffee and a scone, whilst using free high speed internet service until late in the night.

    B&N and Boarders are middle class homeless shelters. Is say it in jest, but really what else was it good for?

  • d.

    Bridge Street Books in Georgetown is the best by far. Sometimes not so friendly (last time I was there the guy quit helping me to talk on the phone), but the selection simply cannot be beat! You can tell the owners actually care and take time to think about what they are selling.

    • Pat

      I second the Bridge Street Books love. Best Poetry section in town.

  • I used to shop at Borders quite a bit in its early years, but first amazon.com’s lower prices for hardcover books (what I usually buy) and then the convenience of the Kindle reader led me to do most of my book buying on line. While I will miss the giant bookstore as a place to hang out and browse — just like I miss the one-time leviathans of music selling such as Tower Records — the market has shifted, for better or worse.

    Nevertheless, there was one thing I continued regularly to purchase at Borders — magazines. Downtown D.C. lacks a good newsstand, and several magazines appear to be available only at Borders or B&N stores. For example, a year ago there were three places in downtown DC I could purchase Monocle, a British magazine that is a personal favorite of mine. Soon there will be only one.

  • jcd

    I’ll miss this Borders. The featured books up front were usually more to my taste than those at B&N, which tended to be big bestsellers. I really like Kramerbooks, but it’s not a complete substitute.

  • Ray Charles is Gone

    pre-1992 Borders was way cooler, hipper than Kramerbooks. Love these lolcats on here. Yes, it is corporate today, but for a long time, this was the coolest, hippest bookstore around.


Subscribe to our mailing list