Farewell Borders – the end of an era?

“We had worked very hard for a different outcome. The fact is that Borders has been facing headwinds for quite some time,  including a rapidly changing book industry, the e-reader revolution and a turbulent economy. We put up a great fight, but regrettably, in the end, we weren’t able to overcome these external forces.” (from Borders’ letter to customers) (photo credit here)

I suppose this was inevitable, but I am still saddened by it.  We need bookstores because we need a literary culture.  I’ll do what I can to keep that culture going by going to indies when possible (My favorite in Houston is “Brazos Books“), but I admit that I rarely buy books at physical bookstores anymore.  I usually use my iphone to request the book from the library or, if they don’t have it, to see if it’s cheaper on Amazon or elsewhere and get it through the mail.  Yeah, so I’m using the brick and morter stores as showrooms and if everyone does that, I see what can happen. 

Borders was using Amazon.com for their online ordering.  I think Brazos Books uses the new Google e-reader, which gives them a portion of the sales revenue.  They also have several author readings or events each week to draw people in.  They are an amazing success story: they almost closed in 2006 but 14 loyal customers and private investors came together to rescue it.  (They have a great page on their site about why it’s best to buy locally, i.e., keeping money in the community, providing local jobs, staff with better expertise, etc.)  And BookPeople in Austin, well… I would live there if they’d let me.

I like love LOVE going to the bookstore with my daughter for an hour or two and reading together whatever she finds of interest.  I remember going to our mall’s B. Dalton growing up and getting the latest Babysitter’s Club or Sweet Valley High book.  I felt so grown up once I owned their frequent buyer card.  It was a small store but it felt enormous to me.  And I want my daughter and her generation to know the joy of holding a book in their hands, turning the actual pages, not just tapping a screen with their fingers.  (I think I’ll start taking my daughter to Brazos Books because I know they have a huge room of kids’ books.)

It’s difficult to forecast, of course, and I do know that the publishing industry has changed a great deal in the past 10 years or so, but I don’t think this foreshadows the end of paper books.  It may mean the end of an era, especially since Borders has been in business for 40 years, but we can still learn from reading, both in print and on e-readers (not that I’ll ever own one!).

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