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Posts Tagged ‘Borders’

If you’re a reader, a writer, a reviewer or just a book junkie, you’ve probably heard the news about Borders – after closing a few dozen stores this winter in a desperate effort to stay afloat, the company has filed for bankruptcy and is liquidating its 399 remaining stores. Sadly, this includes the two-story behemoth in Boston’s Downtown Crossing area – easily one of the company’s biggest stores, and the only one close enough (since they closed the Copley Square store) for me to browse on my lunch break.

As much as I love my indies – the Brattle, the Booksmith, the Concord Bookshop, the Harvard Book Store and any other indie I happen upon – I’m still sad to see Borders go. For one thing, as so many folks have said, fewer bookstores always means bad news for the book industry – fewer outlets for books to reach readers. (This is, of course, particularly bad news for little-known authors.) For another, many towns will now be bereft of their only physical bookstores, which simply breaks my heart. I grew up in a town whose only bookstore is Barnes & Noble, and went to college in a town with only Books-a-Million – and I would grieve if either of my hometowns were left completely without a bookstore.

Perhaps most importantly, I have good memories of time spent and books purchased at Borders stores – which were there for me when I needed a bookstore in several different states and even across the ocean. I used to stop in at Borders in Oxford on my way home from the grocery store (it was open later than Blackwells or Oxfam), and browse the 3-for-2 tables or the new bestseller lists or the plentiful magazine selection. I still have the copies of Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating and Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days (the gorgeous UK edition, of course) bought there. Sometimes I’d meet a friend at the little Starbucks in the back, and we’d sit at a round table and drink chai lattes to ward off the misty chill outside.

When I spent a month interning in Honolulu one summer, Borders provided me with good beach reading and a quiet, bookish escape when I needed some solo time. I’d grab the keys to the church van (known affectionately as the “blue whale”), back out of the driveway and head to Volcano Joe’s for a chai latte or a smoothie, or to Borders to grab a new book. My copy of The Second Summer of the Sisterhood (Traveling Pants #2) from that summer still has sand in it, I think.

And finally, I’ve enjoyed browsing the Borders in Downtown Crossing once in a while since we moved to Boston a year ago. I loved its solid, steady presence overlooking a bustling square, which contains the Irish Famine Memorial, the Old South Meeting House, and plenty of street musicians, pigeons, businesspeople and tourists. The area will be poorer without it, and I’ll no longer have a place to pick up a new book if I decide I just have to have it today (as I did a couple of months ago with The Penderwicks on Gardam Street).

I’ve been to the closing sale once or twice – but the chaos, with Caution tape everywhere, just makes me sad. (And so far, the discounts aren’t enticing enough to make me buy books there instead of at my other favorite bookish places.) I hope the store doesn’t stand empty long – but I wish it weren’t closing at all.

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I love books. (In case you didn’t already know.) I love reading them, talking about them, lending them to friends, receiving them as gifts or loans from friends, checking them out of the library, smelling them, flipping through them, writing about them.

I go through them pretty fast, so it’s nowhere near practical for me to buy all the books I read – hence my ardent adoration of libraries, and of borrowing books from friends. But I love to buy them when I can. And like a good reader/writer/bookworm, who doesn’t want to see the publishing industry go under or switch solely over to e-books or be totally monopolized by Amazon, I try to do most of my buying at local indies. (Most notably, my beloved Brattle – for used books – and the Booksmith, with occasional forays to Concord. And, okay, I sometimes still order occasionally from Amazon.)

I was sad to hear Borders had filed for bankruptcy and is closing more than 200 stores – though a tiny part of me cheered for the indies who will (I hope) see more business from this development. Mostly I worried for the future of the book industry in general – as lots of publishing professionals have said, fewer bookstores means fewer places to sell books, for everyone. And I’m sad for the communities in which Borders is the local bookstore, similar to the way in which Barnes & Noble is the (only) bookstore in my hometown.

However, I’ve been heading down on a semi-regular basis to the Borders near Copley Square, to scope out the deals at its closing sale. On my most recent visit, I scored three trade paperbacks for $23. This was after picking through shelves of disorganized books, shoved into crooked lines under scribbled-over signs with discounts larger than the section names. And though I was glad to score a deal, I felt a little like a vulture, picking over the remains of a carcass.

There’s something here about the devaluing of books in general, and supporting the big chains because discounts are attractive (which is the exact reason The Shop Around the Corner closed in You’ve Got Mail), and also something about not having the budget to buy nor the room to store all the books I’d like to own. I can’t quite articulate all the layers, nor am I seeking to condemn anyone for where they buy their books. (And I know some folks love their Kindles and nooks and iPads, though I am such a paper book fanatic that I don’t want one.)

But seeing the unruly shelves and the crossed-out discounts (replaced by higher discounts) and the empty space on the second floor, cordoned off like a crime scene with yellow Caution tape, really got to me. It felt like taking part in the dismantling of the store, though I know Borders’ problems go well beyond my ken. Nevertheless, I won’t be going back there. I’ll be more committed to doing my book shopping at the Booksmith and Brattle and other indies I love – because while I was sad to see this Borders close, I think I’d cry if any of my favorites had to close up shop.

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