Goodbye Borders, and thanks for everything.
Perhaps the liquidation of Borders Books & Music is good news for independent booksellers. And although the indies are personal heroes of mine, I can’t share in their joy. Borders might have been a big-box in their heyday, with the power to undercut and destroy any small bookstore they happened to compete against…but it was my big-box, which I’ll miss terribly.
I cannot begin to calculate how many hours I spent wandering their stacks, and how much of my hard-earned lucre ended up in their till. Can’t speculate how many lunch hours were spent at Borders (at many Borders; there was always one within a short drive no matter where I was). Sometimes I’d wander in looking for a specific book, sometimes I’d have no particular purpose at all. Nearly always left with something great, though.
That time will inevitably be spent with the indies now, and although that’s cause to rejoice let’s temper that a little, please. Borders wasn’t always a big-box. It was an indie once itself, pioneered in 1971 in Ann Arbor by a couple of brothers, Tom and Louis Borders, both University of Michigan undergraduates. For a company founded by such youngsters to survive and prosper for nearly 40 years is kind of miraculous. For it to wither and die today is a testament to changing times, to changing reading habits, and maybe just to entropy.
A shameful but true fact about we book lovers: we’re more than a little vulture-like by nature. So in the coming days many of us, maybe most of us, certainly me, will be swinging by Borders to see what bargains are to be had.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, I guess. But please, let’s try not to get caught up in the moment. Let’s remember, with proper deference, what we’re losing here. Let’s remember that we are losing forever 399 cathedrals to the beauty, brilliance and business of books. Let’s remember that nearly 11,000 fellow book-lovers are losing their jobs.
So snap up your bargains, by all means. But spare a kindness, a word of encouragement, and your thanks, to the people of Borders.