Monday, July 18, 2011

The death of Borders and the fine art of browsing through bookstores

I felt like crying when I read that Borders planned to liquidate its inventory and close its remaining stores.

I'm old enough to remember the days when all you had were tiny Walden's and B. Dalton stores at the mall that hardly carried anything. So the past few decades have been a golden age for those of us who love to browse in bookstores, and it seems to be ending. (I loved record stores too, but those are even longer gone.)

I still remember my first visit to a book superstore - I was in high school and it was the Barnes & Noble at Downtown Crossing in Boston. I'm not even sure if it's still there but at the time, it had three floors including used books in the basement. I bought a used paperback copy of Frank Herbert's novel Dune, which I loved.

Since then, I've spent countless hours at Borders and Barnes & Noble. Sometimes it's my main social activity for the weekend. I'm beyond the age where I want to spend Sunday afternoon trying on clothes at the mall or seeing the latest new release at the multiplex. (Which probably doesn't interest me anyway.)

And I almost always buy something. I'm not one of those people who thumbs through a book to see whether I'd like it and then orders it from Amazon. In the past few years, I've also built up my collection of Broadway cast recordings at Borders. (Granted, I used discount coupons a lot but I spent money.)

Yes, there are a couple of independent bookstores near me but they're small and it's difficult to find parking. There's not much room for sitting, not much to look through, no place to get an iced tea. And I feel awkward if I leave without buying anything. The two Barnes & Noble stores are farther away.

So I'll probably just use Amazon more, which is a shame. I didn't leave bookstores - they left me.


JK said...

As usual, Esther, you hit the nail right on the head. Opening a box from isn't the same as thrill of discovering a new book, cd, etc. that you are holding right in your hands. Once again, we have "technologied" ourselves out of yet another simple pleasure. Soon, there will be no reason to leave the house. Sad.


Esther said...

I agree. Another communal activity you can now do by yourself in front of your computer. The great thing about Borders and Barnes & Noble is they were places where you could hang out, browse, discover something you hadn't even thought about buying. I could still drive to Barnes & Noble but the two Borders in my area were a lot closer.

Kathy said...

I miss bookstores even more than record stores, because I have not had a record store near me in years - maybe 40 years - that carried much I wanted to buy. And they would only order something if one clerk was working. The rest didn't care.

I love browsing in bookstores. And even more I love looking for gifts for other people. I've bought thousands of dollars worth of books for my grandchildren. I'm lucky - I still have two Barnes and Noble stores nearby - well a 20 -30 minute drive. But who knows how long that will last. When they closed the B & N in the triangle at Lincoln Center this year it was a sign that they could all close, and although I wasn't in NY often to buy books there, I miss it when I am there.

The B & N stores near me are usually pretty busy, so I hope they last a while. I always find much more than I go in to buy.

Esther said...

Hey Kathy, thanks for the comment. Yeah, I probably have to drive 15 or 20 minutes to get to a Barnes & Noble. But hopefully it'll survive. The thing about Borders and B&N is that they're destinations - you can spend awhile in them. If I had a big independent bookstore nearby, I'd shop there. But I don't. And the B&N at Lincoln Center had book and CD signings, musical performances. It's just a shame.