Monday, July 25, 2011

A Nation Without Borders

We crossed the threshold today of our local Borders. The great glass windows, which just a few weeks ago glimmered with glossy bestsellers, were plastered with huge, ugly signs: Everything must go. Inside: literate chaos. Bookcases were disheveled. Bargain bins full, bursting and ramshackle, greeted us as we passed through the doors. The smell was still there: books, paper, thousands upon thousands of pages, mingling with the very faint aroma of stale coffee. To the left of the entrance stood much-loved cork board. The spaces where advertisements of activities in the bookstore would have been placed were dark. The rest was faded from the sun. There were no advertisements. Nothing is happening in Borders ever again. Not ours. Not yours. If you haven't been keeping up with the news, the great bookseller, once the bane and terror of independent stores succumbed to the shifting needs and abilities of our technological age. Digital music and video crushed its DVD and CD segments. Amazon, the biggest fish in the pond, crushed its book sales. Indebted to publishers, authors, and others, Borders was forced to capitulate, and now, with no buyer in sight, it is forced to close its doors for good. 11,000 hard working book lovers are now out of their jobs. Book-selling, in general, is seen to be nearing a time of significant change (if not already in the midst of it with Kindle's and Nook's abounding). But today, Fox and I had little thought of the book industry. We were swamped with our memories. For the past eleven years of our relationship, Borders has been the sight of dozens upon dozens of our most loving moments. We would go, sometimes weekly, and browse, and sit, and read, and talk. The talking was the best. Surrounded by learning, literature, the vast outpouring of words, we would talk and teach one another how to be better lovers, stronger friends, and eventually closer spouses. I will miss terribly those moments. As we wandered Borders today, with our sons in tow, we could not help but feel torn. We were mourners at the funeral of very old and very dear friend. At the same time, as we picked through the tattered remains of the bookstore's collection, we felt like vultures, come to feast upon the carrion. Complaining about the meager sales seemed out of place, and so we didn't. We shopped. One last time we filled a basket with books from Borders: histories, classics, myths, and two modern novels. Thorn, too, received a bonanza of books, which he eagerly flipped through this evening in our living room. He will never remember a Borders. Little Kit, who entered the store with us today, spent his only half-an-hour between the venerable walls. My littlest son may not even have much of any bookstore experience, unless Barnes & Noble can survive the turnings of our times. We came home, bags laden, wallet lighter, and wistful for past experiences and pleasures. We will miss you, old friend. Our Borders. In our memories you will live on as a place where we laughed, sipped coffee, and read to one another. Thank you.

RIP Borders - b. 1971, d. 2011

For further information on the Borders situation: PBS news on Borders Liquidation

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