[personal profile] kittenscribble
I can't help feeling vaguely guilty that Borders is closing. Yes, I know that one person's purchasing habits could not have saved an entire chain, etc. But I could have done more. When we buy books (which is seldom), we generally buy from Amazon (hey, it's cheaper, and we've got that Prime shipping deal). Because I have too many books at home as it is, I've been patronizing the library. And lately I've been getting into ebooks, which doesn't make Borders any money either... though I've been reading epubs, so B&N has been getting a tiny smidgen of my cash.

(Because I can finish a standard paperback in two hours, give or take, I don't generally feel like spending $6 or $7 to take the book home and have it sit on a shelf. I have been known to read books in their entirety while sitting in a comfy chair at a bookstore, and then carefully return the book to the shelf. I'm a bad person.)

I'm still sad, though. Because I still love bookstores. A bookstore is more than a place that sells books. Writing groups meet in the coffee shop areas. Parents take their kids to the children's section to browse. Knitting groups sit together in the comfortable chairs and talk in low voices. Local musicians play small sets in the evenings. Readers wander the aisles, leafing through books, and avoid one another's eyes... although every now and then, someone will say, "oh, you like reading X too? Have you tried Y?"

The Borders where I grew up is gone now, closed as a result of the previous round of shutdowns. There weren't a lot of places for quiet, nerdy high school kids to hang out as a group, but my friends and I liked the Borders coffee shop. They'd give you your coffee in a ceramic mug, which would make you feel satisfyingly grown-up, and then you could snag a table and a pile of books, and sit for hours. Later, it turned into something that my sister and me could share. I've spent hours in such places, grazing on books.

Sometimes - rarely - I even bought one.

I don't know if there's a economically sustainable model that a brick-and-mortar bookstore can follow. I do know that, even though I'm an avid reader, I haven't really done my part to support them. But I do love the feeling of being surrounded by books, and being surrounded by people who love books. I hope that somehow, somewhere, that feeling can be sustained.

Date: 2011-07-19 06:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pictsy.livejournal.com
I too feel a bit of guilt, but not too much. First of all, it's not very righteous to patronize a national chain vs. local independent businesses. Second of all, when I needed to find last-minute gifts, Borders almost never had what I wanted in stock, whereas Barnes & Noble usually had it.

Date: 2011-07-20 01:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
Since I never really shopped at Borders, I can't really say whether or not they had anything I wanted. But I've heard that from other people too.

Actually, now that I think about it, I did most of my book shopping at Daedalus, so I feel kind of warm and fuzzy about that. Now if only they'd install a coffee shop, I'd be set.

Date: 2011-07-19 11:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] summer-queen.livejournal.com
I used to have class in the Bowie Border's cafe ... we moved to Barnes and Noble not long before the place closed. I feel vaguely guilty, except the Borders around here rarely had what I wanted when I wanted it ... and really what I'm craving is a coffee shop that has some books, rather than a book store with a coffee shop. In that sense, I miss the local coffee shop that closed down a lot more than I'll ever miss Borders in general.

Date: 2011-07-20 01:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
I would love it if there were more coffee shops with books, since that's pretty much what I want out of a bookstore. I really don't know where to find one anymore. Politics & Prose, I guess, but they're really far away.

Date: 2011-07-20 02:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] examorata.livejournal.com
I think that the trend for libraries is more coffee-shop-and-local-musicians. I am not sure about brick-and-mortar bookstores. There IS a thrill of discovery, but I really do not want to keep buying books - for reasons you noted! I have too many as it is and it's hard to part with them, even the ones I know I will never re-read. I've really been trying to go to the library more often. A new library model with for-profit features like coffee? Maybe.

I wouldn't mind a coffee shop with books, but I am not a huge coffee drinker. What I really want is a coffee shop/locally sourced cafe, with books and board games, that doesn't mind if you sit around for hours. But, um, I don't think it's possible to make a profit that way.

Date: 2011-07-22 07:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
Exactly - I want a place I can just sit and mooch. Like if a Starbucks or a Caribou Coffee stocked books and board games. But yes, I can't really see the profit in that either.

Date: 2011-07-22 05:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mediaprophet.livejournal.com
The advantages of big box bookstores became their disadvantages when Amazon came on scene. Amazon does what Borders did, but better -- that being a large selection, up-to-the-minute inventory system across a chain of stores. You could not go to a small, local bookstore and find 30,000 different titles in one place; nor could you call them and quickly find out how many copies of the hot new title they had in stock, and if they were out, how many were in stock in the next zip code over.

Amazon does all that, but better.

The advantages of a B&M bookstore are that you can browse. Where Amazon tries to recreate that experience, using tags and similar shopper data, nothing beats the "ooh what's that?" experience of browsing random shelves. But any bookstore can do that for you.

Small, local bookstores have a local feel, more than just a "local authors" section, but an authentic local feel. This is something Borders and Amazon could not do. Sure, Borders had (I suppose still has, for the time being) a local manager who knew that the local customers bought a lot of manga; so he stocked a lot of it for them. And Amazon can tell you what other people in [Your Geolocation / Shipping Address Here] buy. But nothing can beat the local culture that comes with something like DC has in Politics & Prose, for instance. Plus, the people at a small, local store are less likely to be minimum wage lackeys and more likely to be enduring partners committed to the store (in that the owner probably works the counter, like at Second Edition).

So that's why I think B&M bookstores aren't going away; but big box bookstores are doomed.

Date: 2011-07-22 07:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittenscribble.livejournal.com
It's definitely browsing that I miss, when I'm shopping online. It's just not the same to click through Amazon's suggestions. Can't beat them for convenience, though (as Borders knows).

Is there a store like P&P closer by? I love them, but they're rather far away.

The funny thing about Second Edition is that I almost never find what I'm looking for there either, which seems to be the complaint going around about Borders. However, I cut them a break because they're a small local store, with a highly fluctuating inventory, and they're generally very friendly and apologetic about not having what I'm looking for. It's the small local vibe, I guess.

If/when the big box bookstores go extinct, I will miss the feeling of "all the books in the world are at my fingertips" when I walk into a store... but since I was really only interested in 2% of the books anyway, I guess I'll learn to do without it. Now if only Second Edition had an attached coffeehouse, I'd be all set.

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