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I am Gutted, Like a Borders Bookstore

March 25, 2011

Met up with friends last night for dinner at the 2nd Avenue Deli… the fact that it is not on 2nd Avenue anymore irks me in the same place as finding a typo in a published book.

But I digress. On the way there, I saw horrible signs in the nice big Borders Bookstore on 2nd Avenue. “Everything Must Go!” “Closing!” “40% Off!” Giant posters in the windows, in lurid black and yellow. The same colors as crime scene tape.

Inside, the shelves a cacophony of books, picked over and in disarray, unkempt and unloved. After dinner, my companions being book loving sorts with time to kill, we wandered among the shelves. I felt a little bit like we were carrion birds, picking over the entrails, swooping in on the last tasty morsels of books. I didn’t have the heart to take pictures.

I will miss this Borders. I knew they were having financial trouble, and I knew they needed to close stores. I thought this one would be one of the saved ones though. It was *my* Borders, a nexus of my city rambles. I feel guilty that I didn’t buy more there. Even tonight, I talked myself out of a discounted book or two. Between the library and the review stash, I need to not buy books for a while. I should take another Tower of Books picture soon. I bet it’s still definitely above my knee.

I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth from Borders. Waiting for movies to start, or chattering among the shelves when the movie ended. Stopping in to cool off, warm up, dry off, when I was walking from Somewhere to Elsewhere, and Borders was kind of on the way. Browsing books, even reading them in their entirety. (Shame on me, I know. But I read fast, and sometimes I couldn’t help it.) Researching my fantasy football draft in magazines in the cafe, sipping coffee.

Borders always had better coffee than Barnes and Noble. Yes, Borders is a chain, is big business, and not an independent storefront. And the independent bookstores are struggling as much, if not more. (Making a note to make the rounds of my favorite small storefronts in the coming weeks. Just to make sure they’re all right.)

I keep wondering whether the book is a dying art form. I hope not. I like pages. And I wonder, if e-books really do take over, what will happen to browsing. I’ve found so many favorite authors by chance, wandering bookstores or libraries, my eye caught by the colors of a spine. I distrust the fake chance of recommendations generated by algorithms. “Users who bought this were statistically likely to buy that.” Brr! Yes, I’m loyal and emotional about paper books. But I have a bigger concern about the culture of reading, of books and the places they inhabit, the way they make community.

Apparently melancholy and a slight overdose of pastrami make me wax poetic.

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