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Borders Closes Four Stores

Borders Falls off the Shelf: The book giant closes four stores in the Islands, affecting local publishers.


Illustration: Michael Byers

Hawaii bookstores are becoming an endangered species. This spring, Borders closed stores on nearly every island. The shuttering of the Lihue store left Kauai with only one bookstore, Talk Story—a used-book store in Hanapepe.

Borders also closed stores in Kailua-Kona, Kahului and, on Oahu, in Waikele, affecting not only Hawaii readers, but local publishers and writers.

“Hawaii is already a very small market, and, although there are still a lot of nontraditional book outlets, such as big-box stores, mass merchandisers, touristy shops, boutiques and specialty stores, the loss of four big bookstores is going to hurt,” says Jane Gillespie, publisher of BeachHouse Publishing on Oahu. “We are a regional publisher; the bookstores here have a regional section where readers interested in learning more about Hawaii can browse.” Sure, book lovers can still order from websites like Amazon, but, Gillespie notes, “There are so many books online … your niche market gets lost.”

And online book vendors can’t serve as a gathering place for locals. “Besides the obvious effect this will have on sales, it impacts our ability to market our titles through author signings and other in-store and community promotional events,” says George Engebretson, publisher at Watermark Publishing (a sister company to PacificBasin Communications). “Bookstores can be very effective marketing partners for small publishers. Despite the convenience of finding and buying books online, many book lovers still rely on the brick-and-mortar stores to keep them informed on new releases and other developments.”

Both Engebreston and Gillespie also say that e-readers and online sales are on the rise, but aren’t a large portion of their sales. Yet, unless other bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble, step in to fill the void, it might be the only way to read locally produced books in the near future.

Photo: Courtesy Hawaii Book & Music Festival

Hawaii Book and Music Festival

The 6th annual Hawaii Book and Music Festival is on May 14 and 15 at the Honolulu Hale Civic Center, where both local and Mainland authors and musicians will entertain and talk story.

“In terms of content, this year’s HBMF is the strongest yet,” says Roger Jellinek, the festival’s executive director. “[There’s] terrific music and hula on the Main Stage, major prizewinning adult and keiki authors, and 12 PBS Kids characters and their PBS Kids Host, Mr. Steve.”

Don’t miss the chance to meet Sarah Vowell, author and frequent contributor to National Public Radio’s This American Life, on Sunday at 11 a.m. Her latest release is Unfamiliar Fishes, a book that focuses on 19th century Hawaiian history.

The event goes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission and nearby parking are free. For more information, visit hawaiibookandmusicfestival.org.


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Honolulu Magazine May 2020
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