My closest large bookstore is a Borders (not counting the small new/used store in my town), and it’s closing, as well as the Borders I pass on my way to work. As a lot of others do, I have mixed feelings about this. I’m very sad for the people who will be losing their jobs and I wonder what it means for the future of bookstores. I also feel that it won’t make a whole lot of difference to me personally (directly, right now — who knows about long-term consequences). I used to go to Borders fairly often, but in recent years stopped going, mostly because I began acquiring books in other ways. Being who I am, I feel a little guilty about this, as though my failure to shop at Borders is the cause of all their problems.
Hobgoblin and I used to go to Borders whenever we needed a new book to read. It seems unbelievable now, but I used to run out of things to read and need to go to a bookstore to find something new. Blogging changed all that, of course; it was after I began blogging that my TBR shelves grew and grew, and now I won’t run out of anything to read for a decade or so. I’m very happy to have all the stockpiled books I do, but there was something fun about finishing up a book, heading out to the store, picking something out, and coming home to read it right away. Now when I buy books, I’m likely to read them only after a lot of time has passed, but it was satisfying to dive into my new purchase immediately.
I also remember shopping at Borders, looking at the books and thinking, I really have no idea what I want to read. This was partly because the selection at Borders was never all that great, but it was also because while I read reviews here and there, I didn’t follow the book business nearly as closely as I do now. Now I have no trouble thinking of things I want to read — I have a wishlist with hundreds of books on it — but then I would look at the books and not know much about them. I’m not much of a risk-taker when it comes to reading, so I tended to stick with the authors I knew, largely classic, canonical stuff and the biggest contemporary names. It was as I started reading blogs and learning more about all the books out there that I started shopping at Borders less. I figured out that I’d rather get books from elsewhere — Powell’s online or Book Mooch or my small local shop — and that Borders wasn’t likely to have what I wanted.
But still, I’m sad to see it go. Hobgoblin and I headed out there last weekend to check out the sales, and I couldn’t believe the long line of people waiting to buy books. I had never seen so many people in the store before. The line stretched all the way through the shop to the very back. It was a fast-moving line, but still people were waiting a good 20-30 minutes to pay. If what I saw that day is any clue, reading is certainly not dead, nor are paper books. People were so excited about the sale — and it was only 20% off, which, I suspect, isn’t all that much of a bargain when compared to Amazon prices. But it was an event and people wanted to be there. I bought a few things (The Yacoubian Building, A Novel Bookstore, E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel), but I felt strangely guilty doing so, as though I had failed to support the store and was only showing up to take advantage of it now that it was failing. The workers looked a little shell-shocked, as well they might with such a crowd and on the verge of losing their jobs, and I imagined them thinking, “why didn’t you all show up when we needed you?”
So, yeah, even though Borders was far, far from the best bookstore out there and I’d much rather spend my money at independent stores, I’m still sad that it’s closing.