My local Borders Bookstore, as with all the others in this chain, is going out of business. I have to say that I am somewhat conflicted over this. There is something sad about a bookstore closing down. Bookstores, especially those open late at night, are places where those of a bookish deportment can hang out. They are safe places filled with civilized, literate people. But, on the other hand, these big, glossy, corporate box-stores put a lot of indy bookstores — used bookstores in particular — out of business. Local independent bookstores are places where the people who work there actually READ the books they sell and take the time to speak with patrons about why they love books.
I have to admit, though, that I am partially responsible for Borders going out of business. First, it was the siren lure of Amazon. Why buy it full price when you could get it for a discount? I would still go to the brick-and-mortar stores when impatience took hold of me and I did not want to wait the week or ten days it took for Amazon to send a book. But the death knell to the relationship with the boxy bookstores came when I met my Kindle. (Yes, yes I have started sleeping with my Kindle). I could have my books cheaply and instantly delivered by the flick of a button.
One day last week, I poked my head in Borders and saw a line of book patrons, at least fifty people long, curled all the way back to the cafe section, the arms of each patron filled with 40% off books. Scavenging is an ugly business. I turned right around and left the store.
I needed a real bookstore fix, so I headed on over to my favorite used bookstore, Dave’s Olde Book Shope. I needed the comforting smell of musty books and the embrace of its towering shelves over narrow aisles. I entered through the back door (when were you ever able to do that at Borders?) and found Dave sprawled on the floor sorting books. He smiled with recognition. I cringed with guilt because it has been months since I’d been in there. He asked if he could help me find something. (The last time I tried to find something in Borders, I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to help me). After he directed me to the shelves I was looking for, I too sprawled out on the floor, browsing and flipping pages. I went back in time to when I was a kid at one of the many old bookstores in our neighborhood. Yes, I know, I am a nerd but this is what nerds do.
I selected two books. When I approached the desk to pay for them, Dave was busy conversing with a young man about Pillars of the Earth and the Lonesome Dove series. Never, ever had I seen a chain store worker actually discussing books with a patron. I stood and listened for a few minutes and made a mental note of someday reading Ken Follett’s book. (This is what happens when you take the time to discuss books).
As I finished the transaction and headed out the door, I was hit with this thought: could the demise of the chain stores breathe new life into the local independent book venture? As Dave says in the clip below, there is a place for both real and electronic books.
But this is not going to happen if we don’t support our local brick-and-mortar stores. I urge you then to find your own local bookstores and patronize them. Most likely you are still going to find a used book cheaper than the same one in electronic format or shipped from Amazon.
Second, tell someone else in your neighborhood about that bookstore. Share the store’s website on your Facebook page or Twitter feed. (If the store is on FB or Twitter, like it or follow it.) If you have a blog, blog about it. I happened to find a Youtube clip about Dave’s and I am posting it below.
If we say we love books and bookstores, then it is up to us to save our neighborhood stores.
Lori G. (c) 2011. Postscript: since this I made this post, this article has been published in the Soul Food Cafe’s monthly newsletter. Click HERE. It will be about halfway down on the right.