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Rumor has it that Borders Group (NYSE: BGP ) may imminently admit defeat by declaring bankruptcy. The company's long, melodramatic, almost vaudevillian death scene could finally issue its last wheeze.
Late last week, The Wall Street Journal cited the notorious "people familiar with the matter," who claimed that the bookseller could file for bankruptcy early this week. That's too bad for folks who have rolled the dice to invest in the penny stock, grasping for glimmers of hope in the form of optimistic conjecture of a deal with Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) , or the idea it could a lifeline from General Electric's (NYSE: GE ) GE Capital arm could keep from going down.
I'm frankly amazed to see how long a company this beleaguered and seemingly doomed can keep on staggering along when it has friends in high places. Borders' major shareholder, Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management, has saved Borders' bacon many times. But now, perhaps, he may have bigger fish to fry, such as his recent J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP ) stake.
As Borders' fate hangs in the balance, bricks-and-mortar book superstores in general may simply be an anachronism at this point. Borders is expected to seek "debtor-in-possession financing," which would help it continue to operate in bankruptcy. However, the writing's on the wall -- both for current investors, who would be left with zero, and for Borders' long-term future.
For those tempted to see Borders' fate as a sign of the death of books and the American reader, don't be too alarmed. The resounding success of Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Kindle e-reader simply indicates that publishing is evolving, not dying. E-books could rekindle Americans' love affair with reading, after all.
That won't save Borders, though. It looks more likely than ever that this company's story may end up on the History shelf, subcategorized under "Failure."