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.


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.


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 mall-based bookstores.)

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."


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.


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 downtown.

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.


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.


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 from.


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.


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."

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