Jul. 19th, 2011

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.

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July 2011

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