Friday, February 18, 2011

A few words about Borders

Standing at the top of the stairs
Despite the fact that my own Borders will not, in fact, be shutting down (list found via A Reader's Respite), I face the news of 200 Borders stores closed down with a heavy heart. I have a long, personal history with Borders that begins rather early in my reading childhood. My local Borders was divided pretty well for my childish mentality. The bottom floor was boring (though I later grew to appreciate history, science and music). The top floor, meanwhile, was awesome. In one corner, children's. In the other, sci-fi and fantasy. Between the two, grown-up literature. On the other side of the floor (where across and under the staircase I could stare for hours at the buyers below), the teen section glimmered, right next to comics.

It was always easy to drift over to whatever shelf I wanted that week. As I grew older, I switched sides more and more, first relocating clearly to the teen section and as I grew even older, drifting back over to the "grown-up" sections, browsing books with the best of them. The booksellers were tolerant and kind, always helpful when I came with questions and always understanding that a kid sprawled on the floor reading probably shouldn't be bothered.

It was more than that, though. These things could apply to any bookstore, and do in fact to a few others I've frequented. But there was something nonetheless unique. It was, without a doubt, our local hang-out as early teens. Borders was were my friends and I would go to hang out.

I think about other bookstores I've been to. My semi-local B&N always felt cold and rushed and seemed like it wanted people to leave as soon as they'd arrive. The local indie was awkwardly organized, crowded and a bit far. The second-hand bookstore was clumsy, tiny and cramped (though perfect for other kinds of book-shopping). Borders, on the other hand, was airy and welcoming, the glass doors showing me a lively world of readers. It was filled with books (and good books too), unlike B&N offering me obscure titles scattered among the popular. I'd see indie publishers. I'd find unexpected books. And I appreciated every minute of it.

Even though my "own" Borders doesn't seem to be shutting down yet, I find myself thinking that if it ultimately does close down, the world will be losing more than just a competitor to B&N and Amazon. It was also be losing a store that, perhaps at a great cost to the smaller stores around it, was forever encouraging young readers to blossom and expand, even if only in one small region.

I, at least, will miss that.


  1. I too posted about the fate of Borders and bookstores in general yesterday. I got quite a lot of personal stories in the comments section. The news has definitely struck a chord among the bookish.

  2. Even though I have never been a fan of Borders personally, it is still sad news.

  3. I lost my local Borders, sadly. I haven't been there much of late, as I've started accumulating books from lots of other places, but I used to go there quite often and it was a nice evening out. I'll miss it.

  4. I hung out in the Barnes and Noble close to my house, but I did appreciate Borders for always having the book I couldn't find at B&N. Unfortunately my Borders is closing (and this is doubly unfortunate since I handed in an application in December), and I will certainly miss finding more obscure titles there.

  5. my Borders is not closing either...for now..and I would hate to see it go. If only because it is the only bookstore around here. It is not a great bookstore..only fair selection, too much non-book stuff..but it is better than nothing.

  6. We have four Borders stores closing, three will remain. It means that for those of us who still prefer choosing our copy of a book from a store rather than online, there are fewer choices now. We also lost two large used bookstores in our university area (Dinkytown), one in December and the other shuts its doors tomorrow after 41 years in the business. That leaves only one used bookstore in the university community. “Biermaier said he’s noticed that students don’t seem to be reading, or at least buying, books anymore with the popularity of the Internet.”
    In the Twin Cities, all of my favorite bookstores have closed over the past decade or so.


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