Farewell, Old Friend … Farewell, Borders

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.

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