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Farewell, Old Friend … Farewell, Borders

July 18, 2011

My mother called me on the phone Monday night to deliver the bad news.

Did you hear? she asked.

No! What?! Tell me!, I cried.

Mom broke the words gently, Borders is going out of business.

I am extremely grateful mom didn’t call with the news that a relative or close friend died. Yet, in many ways, it does feel like a death. For many of us avid readers and bookstore-browsers, this is the loss of a one-time cultural phenomenon and tradition. Browsing bookstores was a happy past-time of mine. When I felt blue, off to the bookstore I’d go where I would get lost in the sweet smell of pages and the sight of ink-black printed words to cheer me up.

I can’t even count the number of “dates” Bryan and I had at our local Borders. (I know, we’re nerds … but we’ll be married 10 years this week, so maybe there’s something to it). We’d venture in Borders with smiles on our face and excitement in our step. Perhaps we’d enjoy a coffee, a comfy chair, the relaxing music — all with a stack of books by our side.

Young Sophie has become such a bookstore fan that when she overheard me say the bookstore was closing, she threw up her arms and said, Oh no! Why? Even this 3-year-old understood she will no longer spend Saturday afternoons with mom and dad in the Borders children’s section (or at the Harlequin romance display).

And this is just how we feel. How about the regulars who made Borders their homes away from homes? Those who frequented the cafes, plugged in their laptop, and read feverishly through books on a daily basis? Where will they go?

And really, the worst loss of all is the 10,700 people who will no longer have jobs. 10,700 people — where will they go? How will they earn a living? How does the economy expect to rebound with a new 10,700 people out of work? It’s not like there are 10,700 jobs just sitting around waiting to be filled.  That right, Borders closing affects everyone, whether we’re a book consumer or not.

And what will happen to the future of the printed book industry? First the independent bookstores close. Now the big box stores. (Lets not forget Barnes & Noble already filed for bankruptcy once.) With eReaders, virtual shopping and the like, what’s to say the printed book itself isn’t slipping into an oblivion? While the convenience of shopping via online retailers has become a routine task, what about the communities that want real stores, actual jobs, and people to talk with for recommendation?

I know Borders going out of business is a sign of the times. But to me, it’s a truly sad sign. This bookstore chain closing marks the end of an era for me and my family. I actually teared up when Sophie asked me why the bookstore was closing.

Not ready to understand eReaders and the bad economy, I asked Sophie why she thought the store was closing.

I think the store is going night-night, Sophie replied.I can only hope the books won’t go night-night too.

52 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2011 12:12 am

    What sad news — it does feel like the end of an era. I thought Borders was a lovely place to spend time (and money) with books and music. And my husband and I are nerds, too — it’s one of our favorite places to hang out. If I was in the vicinity of a Borders, I almost always stopped in for a few minutes — a little reward for a bad day or one more fun thing to do on a good one. I never left there unhappy.

    Thank you for another lovely post, Leah.

    • July 20, 2011 10:25 pm

      Thank you, Helen. Glad to hear other couples enjoy bookstore time together as much as we do!

  2. July 19, 2011 12:46 am

    Oh dear. This is not good news for my household.

  3. July 19, 2011 4:06 am

    Yes, it’s really sad when a bookstore closes. Many of the Borders on the East Coast have already closed. I try to support the independent stores as much as possible. You might want to check out RJ Julia in Madison, CT. They have a website and also a book selection service called “Just the Right Books.” I’ve used this for presents, including for my first grandson’s first birthday and my son’s comment was: “Mom, it was if you picked out the books yourself.”

    • July 20, 2011 10:26 pm

      Thanks for the tip. I do like to support the independent stores too. Sadly many of them have closed as well. They closed three Borders in our area earlier this year. I was hopeful the other one would stay.

  4. July 19, 2011 4:29 am

    I agree with you. I always liked book stores, but haven’t ever been to more than a half dozen in my life. I prefer books over reading everything from my pc screen, but I reckon I may as well get used to it. 🙁
    Sophie sounds like a very intelligent little girl. I hope she’s right, I hope their just going night-night for a while and will eventually open up a new chain maybe geared toward the pc generation and will still carry books. 🙂

    • July 20, 2011 10:27 pm

      Me too! I hope as long as I keep buying Sophie actual books she will continue to keep the paper book tradition alive.

  5. July 19, 2011 4:31 am

    Ours closed last fall. I’m not going to lie– I’m still not over it. I loved their display, bargain book sections, and hot chocolate. Unplanned evenings were meant to be spent meandering through the aisles of Borders. Did I mention I loved their little stationary section? Well, I did.

    And I agree it’s only going to get worse from here. Don’t get me wrong– I love Amazon. But sometimes you just need to turn the book over in your hands and flip through it before you buy it.

    No, I haven’t given in to e-books yet.

    • July 20, 2011 10:28 pm

      I haven’t given in to e-books either and like you, I also like Amazon. But you cannot substitute a good bookstore for an online marketplace. I love their stationery section too. And I always shopped there for my holiday cards and calendars. It was a tradition!

  6. July 19, 2011 4:53 am

    Seeing Borders liquidate is saddening. It’s sad to not be able to enjoy that atmosphere and shopping experience anymore. I feel like our quality of life just sank a notch.

    • July 20, 2011 10:29 pm

      Exactly! It’s one less tangible thing we have in a world that’s turning virtual. Thanks for visiting.

  7. July 19, 2011 6:03 am

    Ours is already gone. So sad. And we don’t have another good bookstore around. Now we must drive to the next town. Or of course . . . Amazon.

    • July 20, 2011 10:41 pm

      And I love Amazon. But it’s just sad that the actual books are disappearing.

  8. Lena permalink
    July 19, 2011 6:13 am

    You are right, it is sad. I love perusing the aisles at a book store. My husband and I spent a few date nights at Borders also, though I have to be honest in that we have not done that in some time — probably just due to our nine-month old! I have also started going to the library more, trying to curb my excessive spending on books — which was a bit out of control. I literally CANNOT pass an airport bookstore without venturing in an buying something, even though I have a stack of unread books by my bed.

    Farewell Borders, it’s been fun, let’s hope this is not the beginning of the end.

    • July 20, 2011 10:41 pm

      Yes, lets hope it’s not the beginning of the end! I love those airport bookstores too!

  9. July 19, 2011 6:19 am

    I’m saddened by this news as well as I have watched the stores close down in my area one by one. I loved spending time there and was always Team Borders over Barnes and Noble. But unfortunately Borders brought it on themselves by not getting into the eReader industry and staying behind the times. Like you said, it’s a sad sign.

    • July 20, 2011 10:40 pm

      I was a Team Borders too. I like Barnes and Noble. But it always seemed that Borders had more options. Guess we won’t have that anymore.

  10. July 19, 2011 6:20 am

    Wow! I am so out of touch — this is the first I’ve heard of it! I can’t believe it either, and I’m sad because we will have two only very small bookstores left in our area. I guess it’s all amazon all the way for me from now on… I am sad, too, Leah — for us and for my two kids and for Sophie — at least I’m glad that she can see it only as going “night-night.”

    • July 20, 2011 10:40 pm

      Thanks, Julia. It does make me sad for our kids too. Will they grow up in a world without much human contact? No stores, only virtual communities? I certainly hope not!

  11. July 19, 2011 6:44 am

    I went through the same emotions last summer when the last Border store closed their doors here in Michigan. Very sad, especially for all the people, who are losing their jobs.

  12. July 19, 2011 7:36 am

    Because I work with independent bookstores, I’m hopeful that this is still an opportunity for them- please, everyone, visit http://www.indiebound.org to find your local bookstore and keep your book dollars supporting your community and local jobs! But I’m nervous and sad overall about what this means for the publishing industry as well as so devastated for the communities that will no longer have any bookstores, as well as for all of the employees losing their jobs.

    • July 20, 2011 10:39 pm

      I completely agree. My husband and I were talking about the fact that hopefully this will benefit independent bookstores. I still enjoy going to those and feel better about spending a full price on a book there since it does benefit the shop owners, community and the employees. Still, it is so sad!

  13. July 19, 2011 8:03 am

    I hate to see a bookstore close. My Borders closed last year and I miss dropping in whenever I was out running errands. I’ll still haven’t found a new place to go.

    • July 20, 2011 10:37 pm

      I was hopeful the Borders in Mission Valley would stay open. But alas, doesn’t look that way. Too sad!

  14. July 19, 2011 8:16 am

    I am so sad about this news too! My husband and I used to hang out at our local Barnes & Noble every weekend. I was sad when music stores started going out of business because I just loved browsing through cd’s to my heart’s content and bringing home a pile of new music that would become the soundtrack of my life. My husband and I and our daughter still venture to the Barnes & Noble here once every couple weeks since it is about a half hour away. I am so saddened by the way the world is working these days. I am of course all for saving trees but those e-readers are just not for me. I love the smell of the books, the weight of them in my hands, the feel of the pages between my fingers and the sense of accomplishment when I close the book at the end. Unless there are no more printed books at all, I will not be purchasing or using an e-reader. This is just so depressing. We’re all going to turn into robots soon!

    • July 20, 2011 10:37 pm

      Exactly! And I just can’t get into the e-readers either. I’m on a computer all day at work and I end up spending a fair amount of time on my home computer too. The last thing I want to do before I go to bed is look at yet another computer screen. Lets hope Barnes and Noble isn’t going anywhere!

  15. July 19, 2011 8:37 am

    I want to say one more thing. This situation reminds me of the movie “You’ve got mail, when a “huge giant” bookstore swallowed a tiny little bookshop and now the giant is swallowed by even bigger monster. I feel terrible about the people who are losing their jobs, but I honestly think small pops and moms bookstores are coming back.

    • July 20, 2011 10:35 pm

      I really hope that is the case! My husband said the same thing — that maybe this is a chance for the smaller stores to thrive. I hope so. And I love “You’ve Got Mail,” even though I’m always sad she closes the Shop Around the Corner.

  16. July 19, 2011 10:29 am

    I do find it sad the bookstores are closing, but mostly for the people who are losing their jobs. It’s hard enough for people to find work anymore. However, Ariana’s comment is encouraging, and hopefully you have some of those smaller bookstores coming back so you and your family with have a place to hang out! It’s so great your children have reading role models to look to.

    • July 20, 2011 10:35 pm

      I know, I think that is the saddest part of all this — the people that won’t have jobs. Yes, lets hope the smaller stores can benefit from this.

  17. July 19, 2011 1:41 pm

    The last article I read suggested they weren’t closing all of them, and neither of the nearest two to me are advertising closing?? Perhaps we can keep our fingers crossed they’ll make a come-back??

    I’m quite spoiled with two Borders within about 20 minutes of me, as well as a Barnes & Nobles.

    We’re word nerds too– two of our last three anniversaries have included a trip to the bookstore to browse in a leisurely way! There is just something so cozy to swoop into a bookstore when I know I have some time to look and a few dollars to spend!!

    Have y’all looked into bookmooch.com or paperbackswap? I’ve been a moocher for years & a more recent paperbackswapper… an excellent way to get books …. sometimes this is the way to go when I can’t get my hands on a book to look through it, because then I haven’t spent a bunch of money getting it if I end up not liking it.

    • July 20, 2011 10:34 pm

      Apparently they were only going to close part of their stores and they were hoping to get bought out of bankruptcy. But that fell through so now they’ll begin liquidating the stores beginning Friday. Thanks for the tip on bookmooch and paperbackswap. I’m going to check those out. We also like to buy used books at Goodwill stores. They’re usually in great condition and far less expensive. And we also see many of our donated books there too.

  18. July 19, 2011 3:32 pm

    This is the first I’ve heard of it…and it truly is the end of an Era. I am an e-reader, but I love browsing in book stores and still buy a lot of paper books. I also remember reading your other post with “books with words in them”…quite a cutie-smartie-pie you’ve got there!

  19. July 19, 2011 4:43 pm

    I’m with you, it IS a sign of the times. Borders closed in Arizona a few months ago, and it was a sad, sad day. Barnes and Noble still abounds a plenty here, though. I’ve heard some publishing experts say that printed books will not go away completely, but that they’ll become more like the vinyl record. I’ve heard others compare ebooks to movies and printed books to the theatre: movies didn’t kill the theatre–they just made it BETTER.

    I think we’re living in rapidly changing times and I’m curious to see how this trend evolves and where it ends.

    • July 20, 2011 10:32 pm

      Yes, definitely interested to see how this turns out. I like your analogy to vinyl and movies. We’ll see what happens!

  20. July 19, 2011 6:41 pm

    This is sad, I love books, I love the smell of them and the enviornment of a bookstore. :0(

    • July 20, 2011 10:31 pm

      Exactly — you just can’t get that from Amazon.

  21. July 19, 2011 7:03 pm

    Our Borders closed last fall, and it is so very sad. Loved nothing more than going in on a Sunday afternoon and reading the books and mags, to pick out my faves.

    • July 20, 2011 10:31 pm

      I know, it’s awful. What are we going to do?

  22. July 20, 2011 12:17 pm

    Our Borders went out a few months ago. So sad!

    • July 20, 2011 10:30 pm

      There were four Borders in my city this year. Three closed and I was hopeful the fourth would stay. Guess not. So sad!

  23. July 20, 2011 9:22 pm

    I LOVE bookstores, even though I gave in a bought an e-reader, I still hang out in book stores roaming the isles. I confess I was never a regular Borders shopper because living in San Francisco we still have a few independents left .. but, it did make me sad. I kept holding out for a white knight. The publishing industry is upside down now. Where and how and what comes next is yet to be defined. Should be interesting for all the writers looking to publish.

    • July 20, 2011 10:30 pm

      It’s nice there are cities that still have independents. I agree about the writers too. It doesn’t look good for our futures.

  24. July 20, 2011 9:23 pm

    ps… So very cute about Sophie. She sounds like such a cutie.

    • July 20, 2011 10:29 pm

      Thanks, Brenda. I think she’s pretty neat too 🙂

  25. July 26, 2011 4:37 am

    Good article, Leah. I think writers will be okay, though, because books aren’t going away, just the format is changing. There might even be more opportunities for writers (I know you read my Borders post). I didn’t know that Barnes and Noble once filed for bankruptcy. They seem to be doing well now, no?

    • July 26, 2011 10:53 pm

      Yes, Barnes and Noble is doing better, which is good. I really don’t know what I’d do if they were both gone!

  26. August 7, 2011 6:13 am

    Seriously sad news, although I was thrilled to get a bunch of books that I had been wanting to read for very cheap!

    • August 7, 2011 9:13 pm

      I know. We went yesterday and I felt like a grave-digger. But I got some DVDs.

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