SOUTH PORTLAND — Pardis Delijani strolled out of Borders bookstore at the Maine Mall on Tuesday afternoon carrying two study manuals for the Law School Admissions Test.

A political science and pre-law major at the University of Maine, she plans to take the test in October and hopes to attend the University of Maine School of Law.

Unlike many of her peers, the 21-year-old Portland resident wouldn’t think of taking an LSAT course online to prepare for such an important test.

“I could never study from a computer like that,” Delijani said. “I still need books to hold and read and write on when I’m studying.”

And Borders is where Delijani has shopped for books since she was a kid. So she was disappointed to learn that the bookstore chain will likely close its 399 stores, including three in Maine, by the end of September.

“I’m kind of bummed,” Delijani said. “I have childhood memories of coming here. I’d wander around and browse for hours. I still come here often. My favorite books are about history and culture.”

Many of Delijani’s favorites will soon be on sale. Borders bookstores in South Portland, Brunswick and Bangor are expected to begin liquidating merchandise as early as Friday, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

The chain, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., is scheduled to be in federal bankruptcy court in New York on Thursday, seeking permission to sell the company to liquidators.

“Sales will start as early as this Friday in some stores,” said spokeswoman Mary Davis. “All stores will close by the end of September. Exactly when depends on how quickly they sell their merchandise.”

The company has been taking steps to avoid bankruptcy since February.

“We were all working hard toward a different outcome,” said Borders Group President Mike Edwards in a prepared statement. “The headwinds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, e-reader revolution, and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now.”

Borders has about 10,700 employees across the country. Davis wouldn’t say what kind of severance benefits they might receive.

What’s clear is that Borders’ pending closure will have a major impact on readers and independent bookstores.

“We’re always disappointed when a bookstore closes,” said Cheryl Perrino, manager of Nonesuch Books at the Mill Creek Shopping Center in South Portland. “That being said, I’m hoping (Borders’ closing) will increase our business, since we’ll be the only bookstore left in South Portland.”

Perrino said a lot of independent bookstores went out of business because of Borders. The company was something of a cultural phenomenon in the 1990s, when its big-box retail stores spread across the United States, selling books, music and movies in a library-like atmosphere that often included a cafe, reading areas and musical performances.

But that big-box approach proved to be the company’s undoing, Perrino said, when the Internet, e-readers and other technological advances rapidly changed the way people purchased and consumed media of all kinds.

“When you operate a business, you always have to adapt to the community you’re in and the market conditions,” Perrino said. “We try to adapt to what our customers ask for. We offer more bargain books, used books and gift items. We offer more specialty books and help customers find out-of-print books. And we can do all that because we’re small.”

That’s little consolation to Suzanne Charland, a grandmother who lives in Old Orchard Beach. She’s an avid reader who visits Borders weekly and often brings along her book-loving grandchildren, who live in Lewiston. They browse and buy and sometimes meet authors.

“I just like to spend time here,” Charland said Tuesday afternoon. “I like the atmosphere. I feel bad that it’s closing. It’s going to be a void in my life.”

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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