PALO ALTO (CBS SF) – The location of one of the last Borders bookstores still open in the Bay Area, directly across from the Apple store on University Ave., seems an obvious answer to why the chain hopes to close all of its remaining stores by the end of the week.

The company that drove many local, independent book sellers out of business has seen its huge market share devoured by and the growing popularity of devices like the iPad and the Kindle that make paper quaint, if not obsolete.

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“The fresh book smell for me is amazing,” said 11-year-old Jordan, who said he would miss perusing the shelves for something to take home and read.

KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:

“It’s better than reading online,” he said.

Retail analysts wonder whether the demise of brick and mortar stores where consumers can research potential purchases might ultimately take a toll on electronic book sales.

Fans of e-books praised the format’s portability even as they thumbed through paper copies of books they might download later.

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On Thursday, Borders is expected to ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York at a scheduled hearing to allow it to be sold to liquidators led by Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group. If the judge approves the move, liquidation sales could start as soon as Friday; the company could go out of business by the end of September.

Borders’ attempt to stay in business unraveled quickly last week, after a $215 million “white knight” bid by private-equity firm Najafi Cos. dissolved under objections from creditors and lenders. They argued the chain would be worth more if it liquidated immediately.

“We were all working hard toward a different outcome, but 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,” said Borders Group President Mike Edwards in a statement.

Borders liquidation could have far-reaching effects, putting thousands of people out of work at a time of high unemployment, particularly in Michigan where Borders is based. The chain, which has been shrinking in recent years, currently has 10,700 employees.

At its peak, in 2003, Borders operated 1,249 Borders and Waldenbooks, but by the time it filed for bankruptcy protection in February that had fallen to 642 stores and 19,500 employees. Since then, Borders has shuttered more stores and laid off thousands.

Borders said it expects to be able to pay vendors for all expenses incurred during the bankruptcy cases.

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