Finding Manga: Borders

JULY 2011 UPDATE: Borders is currently undergoing liquidation and all Borders stores are expected to close by the end of September 2011

 As I write this, it is no secret that Borders is in some trouble. The most recent developments include Diamond—the largest comic and manga distributor for North America—suspending shipments to the stores. (You can read more about this at Robot 6: Diamond puts Borders on hold.) Daniella Orihuela-Gruber at All About Manga has already written an excellent post called Get Thee to a Borders! about why you should consider buying at Borders (especially right now) and so instead I’m going to discuss a bit about how to most effectively buy at Borders.

I love Borders so I’m hoping they pull through, work things out with Diamond, and stick around for a while longer. Yes, it’s a chain (albeit a locally based one for me), but it’s also one of the few remaining physical bookstores that I have available to me. And with careful coordination of rewards and coupons, Borders easily has some of the best deals (20%-50% off on a regular basis), frequently beating out even Amazon, especially when it comes to buying manga. Borders stores have a great selection when it comes to manga and they’re not afraid to stock more obscure or mature titles. Most things you can’t find on their shelves can be ordered for you or can be ordered from them online. Lately, almost all of my new manga purchases have been from Borders stores.

Borders currently has two rewards programs—Borders Rewards and Borders Rewards Plus (A quick breakdown and comparison of the two can be found here.) If you spend $195 or more a year on books, manga or otherwise, you should definitely sign up for the Borders Rewards Plus program which costs $20. If you spend less than that in a year, you should probably just stick with the free Borders Rewards program although the Plus program might still be worth considering. What I love most about the Plus program (yes, I signed up for it as soon as I could) is free shipping on all online orders and the fact that I automatically get 10% off my book purchases in addition to any other coupons and discounts I might use. And even if you’re not using the Plus program, you can always get free shipping by having your order shipped to a local store and picking it up there.

One of the features of the Borders website is that it allows an inventory check of stores which indicates the stores near any given zip code that should have a particular item in stock. And once you’ve located a book you want at a store you want you can place an online reservation and have it held for you. I use this feature all the time when I’m in a hurry and won’t have time to browse in the store myself or if I’m worried they might sell out before I can get to the store. One word of advice: when searching the Borders database by ISBN, make sure to remove all hyphens, otherwise the search results returned will not be accurate. Searching by title or author usually works pretty well.

In addition to being an online retailer, Borders also has physical stores. This means you can actually see, sample, and touch the books, something that you can’t do very well or at all when browsing online. The potential for serendipitous finds it much higher, too. All off the Borders stores that I have been in have a pretty decent manga section and selection. If you’re having trouble locating the section, most of the stores have placed the manga and graphic novels near the teen/young adult department. Many stores have also started shelving anime near or with the manga. Light novels are sometimes shelved in amongst the manga but sometimes you’ll find them in the fiction or genre sections of the store. Generally speaking, manga at Borders is shelved by title although if you can’t find something you’re looking for, check under the creators’ names, too. You probably won’t see a lot of older titles (although there are exceptions), but most new releases and popular series are readily available. And as I previously mentioned, if you can’t find it in the store, you can order it online and still take advantage of most discounts.

Quick Tips for Finding Manga at Borders
1) Sign up for one of the Borders Rewards programs
2) Take advantage of inventory searches and online reservations
3) Remove hyphens when searching ISBNs online
4) Browse shelves by titles first, then by creators
5) Can’t find it in the store? Order it online and still get a great deal.

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