Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

Goodbye, Borders. I will miss you.

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It looks like this is the end.  Borders is going out of business.

When I was a teenager, buying books with the money from my high school job at the public library, I would spend a happy day visiting all of the bookstores in my city.  There was the Waldenbooks at the good mall, the Little Professor Books at the crappy mall, and the used book store in an old green house.  Shopping for books was thrilling, then.  I never knew what I might find, and if I didn’t find it, well, there wasn’t much hope of getting it.  I didn’t often look for specific books, unless they were new releases- instead, I went with an open mind to whatever might be on the shelves.

I was in college when I first saw a Barnes and Noble.  I was dazzled by it.  It was so huge!  So many, many books!  Books I’d never heard of or thought about!  But there wasn’t one in my college’s town, so I mostly went to the Waldenbooks at the mall, and the independent new and used bookstores.  I’d go from one to another, spending an afternoon at it, because they all had different books.

As an adult, I finally moved to Cincinnati, where there was a Borders.  So much better than Barnes and Noble: better book selection, more comfortable… I just preferred it.  Whenever I was sad or angry, I would go to Borders and buy books until I felt happy again.

Then came Amazon.com.   It was so much fun, seeing those boxes with the happy faces arrive in the mail.  So many boxes, so many happy faces.  I still went to Borders, when I wanted the pleasure of being surrounded by books, or browsing.   But more often than not, if I wanted something specific, I’d just order it on Amazon.  It was easier.  Cheaper, often, as well, and I could find inexpensive used copies of everything I wanted.

And all the independent bookstores went away, and that was very sad.  I missed them.  No more long afternoons driving from bookstore to bookstore, browsing.  But I still had Borders.

My own Borders already closed, a year ago.  The storefront is sad and empty, the corpse of happier times.

I’m sorry, Borders.  I didn’t mean to kill you.  I just wanted books, and I didn’t think very hard about where they came from.

But I’ve learned my lesson.  I really have.  I am making a plan to go to my remaining bookstore, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, to enjoy the pleasure of browsing, and to buy books.  Just today, I went to my local comic book store, Up Up and Away, to buy comic books that I could get on Amazon more easily and more cheaply.  Because I value having a local comic book store.

Except… I’m lying, and I know I’m lying even while I say it.  I will still be ordering books on Amazon.  It’s just so convenient, so inexpensive.  I’m sorry, Joseph-Beth.  I’m sorry, Up Up and Away.  I really do value your existence, but even with my strong feelings, Amazon is just so easy.  And if I, who really care about my local bookstores, think that way, what about all the people with less strong emotions about the bookstores?

All the video stores are gone now.  And I haven’t missed them very much.  The record stores are mostly gone.  The newspapers are going.  But somehow, I let myself believe that the bookstores would survive.

Now, I’m not so sure.

At least we still have the public libraries.  I believe in the public libraries.  They will stand for as long as our civilization does, no matter what happens to the bookstores.

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Written by Contented Reader

July 18, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Posted in Opinions

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