I promised myself I wouldn’t do it, but I did it anyway. When the Borders in our town closed in April, I made one last visit. It
was depressing. I didn’t intend to buy anything. There wasn’t much to buy. It now stands dark next to the bustling multi-plex theater.
This week, the last Borders in our region closed its doors. Each week, I’ve received increasingly desperate emails from Borders. The
discounts rose as the closing date neared. I didn’t care about the discounts, but I had to pay one last visit. It was like paying your respects to a deceased old friend.
There were rows of empty shelves. It looked like one of those Soviet-era stores that was out of everything. There was still a limited selection of titles in the Fiction section so I headed there. I found two hard-cover books: Northwest Corner by John Burnham Schwartz and Manhood for
Amateurs by Michael Chabon. I bought both for a total of $10.
Much has been written about the demise of Borders. Some say it was the result of a series of bad business decisions, compounded by
the emergence of Amazon and cheap e-books. It doesn’t really matter to me why Borders failed. I love all bookstores: Waldenbooks, Barnes & Noble, and especially those small, quaint independent bookstores. I made it a point to visit the legendary Powell’s bookstore on both of my trips to Portland, Oregon. What a place—nivrana for book lovers.
Bookstore closings hurt all writers, but especially those midlist authors who depend on “impulse buys.” I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into a bookstore intending to buy a particular book and walked out with a different book (or two or three).
Last August, my son and I took the train into the city and visited the huge Borders store at 59th Street near Columbus Circle in Manhattan. There were still plenty of books on the shelves and the place was crowded. Looking around, I felt a surge of optimism. There really are a lot of book lovers in the world. Business was brisk; you’d never have guessed the store was closing in a matter of weeks. I don’t even want to think about what the place looks like now.
What are your favorite bookstores? What is the future of bookstores?