Tuesday, 19 April 2005

On the Borders of Popular Soullessness

I just came back from (briefly) visiting the Borders Bookstore 'grand' opening, and I have to say, I'm not impressed.

I should have had a bad feeling about it when I had to brave idiotic drivers and traffic jams on Jalan Imbi just to get to Berjaya Times Square. But nooooo... My kiasu-ness of wanting to be one of the first to see the damn store got the better of me.

Daphne was there first, and visited the place before I got there. She got a goodie bag which had a card holder, pen, T-shirt, and (get this) a RM20 gift voucher that expires TODAY. Whoopee doo. That's more than THIS gatecrasher got though. I only got a sheet of paper with the day's program. Oh well.

I wouldn't have minded it if I could actually SEE the damn place. But NOOOOO, they had to wait till the guest-of-honor (the PM's wife) arrived, gave her speech, and took a tour of the place before we could go in.

At this point, I decided to just screw it all for a lark, and go toy-hunting instead.

Nevertheless, though I didn't get to go INSIDE the store, I did manage to catch a glimpse of it from OUTSIDE the main doors on both floors. And I must say I'm hugely disappointed.

Anyone who's been to the Borders in Wheelock Place in Singapore should know that it's a rather cozy place, even if one is looking in from the outside. Piles of books, tall bookshelves, and carpeted floors, and lots of people sitting around reading.

Well, from the outside of Borders Times Square, the store looked more like a Popular bookstore than a Borders Singapore.

Sure, it LOOKS huge, and covers two floors, but the place just seems rather... soulless.

Shiny tiled floors, cheap-looking bookshelves (like the ones in most Popular bookstores) and lots of wide-open spaces BETWEEN the shelves. Biggest in the world it may be, but seriously, I think that's based on only the AREA is encompasses, NOT the amount of books it has.

I'm not too sure about the selection of books (not having good enough eyes to be able to read the titles of the books while peering in from outside the store), but I'm not getting my hopes up, since the buyer allegedly used to work for Popular.

Looks like I REALLY won't be going there anytime soon (or very often for that matter) after all.

Here's also a live update by Erna, who was walking there and talking to me on the phone while I was typing this. :)
  • BIG
  • Place looks mucho blah from the outside
  • Selection quite wide
  • Starbucks
  • LOTR bookmarks
  • Lots of wide open spaces
  • Staff very blur, thought fantasy meant the comics section
  • Fantasy lumped together with SF (I hate it when they do that)
  • Not bad kiddie section
  • Quite a big SF & fantasy section, more than MPH 1 Utama
  • Healthy selection of DVDs
  • Lots of new stuff
  • Elmo plushie
  • More empty spaces, probably less books than Kinokuniya
  • More cushy armchairs
  • Big CD section, some imported CDs
  • Layout better than MPH Midvalley

Stay tuned for more. :-)

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Update: 11:09pm

Just came back from Borders myself, and I have one thing to say:

It SUCKS BIG-TIME.

The place is HUGE, yes, but most of it is wide open spaces, with a rather large Starbucks taking up one quarter of the first floor, and a WORLD OF FENG SHUI beside it. What kind of BOOKstore has a WORLD OF FENG SHUI in it?

The layout, as Erna mentioned earlier, IS easier to negotiate, but only because the place looks so EMPTY.

Also, the CD selection there is pathetic, according to a more musically inclined colleague. Good music books though.

One of worst boo-boos, IMHO: Lumping FANTASY and SCIENCE-FICTION under the SCIENCE FICTION label. GAAAA!

Overall, the place feels impersonal, soulless, empty, commercial, and utterly and blatantly un-bookstore-like.

As a colleague said - It's not a bookstore, it's a hypermarket for books.

It feels as though all emphasis on making it the BIGGEST bookstore in the world, with hardly a thought of what a BOOKstore actually IS all about - the BOOKS.

For God's sake, Berjaya, a good bookstore isn't about the bloody Feng shui stuff, not the bloody Starbucks, and it's certainly not about making the bookstore SPACE as big as possible, it's about the BOOKS.

I predict it will last two years, and then they will close the second floor down and move everything into the first floor.

And NO, I will NOT be going there anytime soon, if ever again.

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