What follows is an Op-Ed article by Friends of Davis representatives Keith
Prior, Brenda Bryant, Peter S. Beagle, and Lynn Christensen. This article
was submitted to the Davis Enterprise--which has editorialized in favor of
bringing Borders Books to Davis. This text ran on April 6 in the Davis Enterprise.
BORDERS AND YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENTS
We think it is important to consider a number of issues--some practical,
some philosophical--that have arisen concerning the potential coming of
Borders Book Shop and Music to Davis.
ALL COMPETITION IS NOT THE SAME
Perhaps the biggest controversy concerning Borders centers on the idea of
competition. We all know competition is good when it serves to keep store
owners working to produce a better product, and customers benefit. Believe
it or not, competition exists in Davis now among our bookstores. Over the
last dozen years, bookstores--new and used--have come and gone, some by
choice or circumstance and some through competition.
However, Borders is destructive competition, representing a corporation's
predatory ability to overwhelm competitors. It is monopolistic. It wipes
out competition, not because it's better, but because it has much more money
behind it than your local independent bookstores. Right now, there is a
mega-bookstore war going on across the country between Barnes & Noble and
Borders. In Borders' own documents for investors, the company speaks of the
book-retailing industry as having "only two major players" --Barnes & Noble
and Borders. (Borders also owns Waldenbooks, the largest operator of
In the bookstore world, what is the effect of a monopoly? Diversity, in the
form of your local independent bookstores, disappears. Monopoly booksellers
negotiate and influence publishing decisions PRIOR to final editing
decisions on whether or not to publish manuscripts.
This collaboration between publishers and giant booksellers threatens
intellectual freedom. Borders customers become beholden to the corporate
buyers of Ann Arbor, not the buyers of our local independents who know us
and our town. Selection actually DECREASES as corporate buyers head for the
common denominator, the larges sales from fewest authors. It's efficient
and profit-making that way.
This has to be unacceptable in a university town committed to the importance
of breadth of ideas and opinion, regardless of how popular ideas are. This
is the value of intellectual, academic freedom. There's a reason why
Stephen King says "Independent bookstores made me.... Independents are
important to me and to everybody who wants more diversity than, say, Judith
Krantz, John Grisham, Stephen King, and Danielle Steel."
BORDERS DOESN'T BRING CHEAPER BOOKS OR MORE DISCOUNTS
There is some misconception about Borders. Does it discount? Yes,
bestsellers and books in specialty areas. But the large majority of its
books are sold at full price. Davis already has discounted bestsellers at
Waldenbooks and at the University Bookstore. Remainders and specially
priced books we also have--at our independents carrying new books and at our
used bookstores. In addition, there are independents in Davis now that
offer bookclub, classroom and bulk order discounts that meet or exceed
Borders' discounts, and have for years.
YES, WE'VE ALREADY GOT CHAINS, BUT BORDERS IS DIFFERENT
Chains are not the issue: square footage is. Imagine a 250,000 square foot
grocery store locating in Davis--seven times the size of any other existing
grocery store. We would not allow such a store in Davis because of the
destruction it would inflict on our neighborhoods. Borders is no different.
At 22,000 square feet, it would be seven times the size of our largest
independent bookstore. Another way to put it is that Borders is scheduled
to build a bookstore as large as all of our current bookstores COMBINED.
And the neighborhood it would affect is the neighborhood of us all--our
There is a view that if you have a good thing going, why not more? We do
have something that is good. We have many bookstores, and we could have
more, but we don't need a Goliath that will destroy choice and diversity.
The large issue that the community should consider is when and for what
reasons should our city leaders be involved in decisions that affect our
business community? Certainly, we all subscribe to the free market.
However, the free market should not harm the city. To this end the city is
already active in economic development to bring desireable business to
Davis. It already discourages undesirable business. The city frequently
puts conditional uses on property that limits the free market and directs
development toward what is good for the city and away from what is not.
This situation is no different. The issue is not anti-competition, but pro
what is good for the city. It is completely appropriate for a city to
affect business decisions when those decisions are harmful to our community.
DAVIS HAS UNMET RETAIL NEEDS
We all know Davis has significant unmet retail needs and potential sales tax
goes uncollected. The city's own retail study of last year showed many
needs, in high numbers. We intuitively knew this, but here is the data. For
department store and general merchandise, the leakage was 96%; for
appliances, 89%; furnishings 85%; apparel 81%. So much opportunity
momentarily exists to bring so many things. Borders does NOTHING to meet
our retail needs.
SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESS DOES NOT CREATE A HOSTILE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT
Some say opposing Borders means Davis opposes business. We answer, "nonsense."
What does it say to our local businesses to ignore their contributions and
years of commitment to Davis to allow a monopoly to take over what they've
created? Now, in our minds, that's hostile to business. We aren't saying,
keep new business our of Davis. We're saying, bring the business to Davis
that Davis needs. As the figures show, there are many categories to choose
LOCAL INDEPENDENTS MEAN COMMUNITY; BORDERS DOESN'T
Unlike most towns, Davis still has community. You can see it in our parks,
our schools, our neighborhood shopping centers--and in our downtown. Our
80th birthday, just last week celebrated in our downtown, showed that sense
of community to be alive and well. We've built Davis that way. We prize it.
We're clear about what it means and the need to nurture it. Take away our
local independents and you take away the sense of community that is at the
center of our town.
Most owners live here and partake in Davis' life. They know us, not only in
their stores, but on our streets, in our grocery stores, in our art
galleries, on our soccer fields, in our parks, at the movies, at our musical
and theatrical events. That matters. We can feel it. We know it. We and
they have chosen this town to live and work in and that makes a difference.
Our local independents help give us a personal sense of place. We know
we're in Davis because of the presence of our independents whose character
and uniqueness help distinguish our city from any other.
THERE ARE OTHER REASONS BESIDES BORDERS TO REVIEW WHAT GOES IN AT AGGIE VILLAGE
The zoning approved for Aggie Village which allowed the Borders project was
based on the assumption that Richards undercrossing and First Street would
be four lanes, thereby providing adequate capacity for the traffic the
project would generate. The citizens of Davis voted for two lanes at
Richards. The city needs to review the land use of this site, in view of
the outcome of Measure E. This project will add thousands of cars a day to
a two lane First Street next to a two lane Richards.
If you think traffic congestion doesn't make sense, especially post-Measure
E, the Council needs to hear from you. They are discussing this issue
Wednesday, April 9.
We encourage you to make your voice heard. It's your town. It's our town.
Keith Prior || Brenda Bryant ||Peter S. Beagle || Lynn Christensen |
KEITH PRIOR is an Academic Coordinator at UCD. He has lived in Davis 18 years.
BRENDA BRYANT has been a professor of Human Development at UCD since 1971,
has served as chair of UCD's Committee on Academic Freedom, and has
published works on the role of family, school, and neighborhood in human
development. She and her 12-year-old son have been residents here for the
past 12 years.
PETER S. BEAGLE is the author of "The Last Unicorn," "Immortal Unicorn," "A
Fine and Private Place," and "In the Presence of Elephants." Having lived
in Santa Cruz and the Pacific Northwest, he and his wife, writer Padma
Hejmadi, moved to Davis six years ago because of its reputation as "eighteen
square miles entirely surrounded by reality."
LYNN CHRISTENSEN is co-owner of PDQ, Davis. He and his wife, Laura, were
recipients of the Davis Enterprise's Friendliest Merchant Award for 1997.
They have lived and worked in Davis for 17 years.
All four contributors are members of Friends of Davis, and concur in the
statement "The spirit of the Davis community is reflected in its small town
atmosphere enhanced by locally operated, compatibly sized businesses. We,
the Friends of Davis, wish to restore the power of our community to
determine its character and destiny."