One Book, One Denver teams up with Borders, snubs Tattered Cover

With the people's boring choice of The Help for this year's One Book, One Denver program selected, the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs, which runs the program, is moving ahead today with the promotional push -- but notably not with The Tattered Cover, certainly Denver's flagship bookstore and arguably one of the crown jewels of independent bookstores nationwide. Instead, DOCA's making an already tedious event just that much less interesting by affixing the corporate label of Borders to its brand. And the Tattered Cover, a longtime supporter of the program, is not too happy about it.

The promotion gets started today with Borders offering a 30 percent discount on The Help through Sunday, and kicking back a portion of the proceeds to One Book, One Denver, which is promoting the coupon on its website and in PR materials. Meanwhile, the Tattered Cover, which is promoting the One Book, One Denver selection on its own website and blog and hosting a discussion of the book next month, is mentioned under "partners" toward the bottom of the list in DOCA's promotional materials.

Evidently, it hadn't occurred to DOCA that a tie-in with the national chain might be perceived by the Tattered Cover -- for whom that chain represents formidable competition -- as a rebuff. "I'm just not sure why you'd ask that," says Pauline Herrera, DOCA's marketing and communications director.

"I think it was just a matter of Borders approaching us with this and moving forward," she continues, noting that, indeed, Tattered Cover has been involved with the program and "really supportive" since its inception, but also pointing out that the TC has not been able to support it as a major cash sponsor.

In regard to having the Borders name associated with One Book, One Denver, Herrera says the Tattered Cover "didn't have any problem with it." But Heather Duncan, Tattered Cover's director of marketing, sees the situation differently: "We are disappointed," she counters.

However, Duncan does acknowledge that, even if DOCA had approached Tattered Cover to be a major sponsor, TC wouldn't have been able to pony up: "Thirty percent is not something we can afford to do." Even the fact that the book is only available in hardcover, Duncan notes, has been something of a trial for the smaller bookstore, limiting TC's purchasing power in terms of stocking the book -- although it is stocked and on prominent display.

Ultimately, though, Duncan was magnanimous -- albeit in a possibly underhanded way: "We do understand. I'm sure that financial support was very attractive to DOCA."