Thanks for the Memories

bordersAs I was updating AAR Saturday, Scarlett came downstairs and said, “I have a sad.” (Kids today aren’t sad anymore, I guess. they have sad). It turns out she’d just discovered what I already knew: Borders was officially through. The closest one to our home was already gone anyway, a casualty of the April carnage (and apparent last ditch attempt to save the company). But all of us still occasionally shopped at one in Park Meadows, a mall about thirty minutes away. Both stores that we frequented always seemed to be full of people – and not just people drinking coffee; there was always a line to buy books too. On a global level, there clearly were not enough of them.

I’m sure I’m part of the problem. Since getting a nook color for Christmas, I buy virtually all my books from Barnes and Noble, and nearly always in the electronic version when possible. When it isn’t possible, I usually go to the brick and mortar B&N right by my work, or order online with free two-day shipping. I used to buy more from Borders, but their Web site and shipping took forever, so I tended to use them only if I had a really good coupon and wasn’t in a hurry.

But oh, the Borders memories! We went to two Harry Potter midnight release parties there (one in Rapid City, South Dakota, on vacation, and one in our local Borders).  They were absolutely fabulous, and way better than the one at Barnes and Noble we went to for Half Blood Prince. So much time and preparation went into them, and the staff was fabulous.

We spent countless hours browsing and buying as a family. A friend worked there. And the coffee? Better than B&N’s.

I had a book cub meeting there. We all started at Coldstone next store and spontaneously wandered over. I can’t remember what book we were discussing, but I do remember one member insisting that Ayn Rand (famous, atheist Ayn Rand) was probably a Mormon by now.

Scarlett briefly dated some employee whose name I don’t remember, probably because she always called him “Borders guy.”

So many authors tweeting, “Writing at Borders today!”

Bookstores have certainly evolved and changed during my lifetime. When I was a kid (and teen, and college student) bookstores were the little B. Daltons and Waldenbooks in the mall. Big, browsing bookstores were mostly confined to the city. We’d go to a big Barnes & Noble in New York and Tattered Cover in Denver, but for us (and probably most people) this was not our everyday book-buying experience. When huge bookstores with cafes started popping up everywhere, it seemed like paradise to me. Granted, their romance sections probably didn’t have too much more than a Waldenbooks, which was pretty well-stocked. But they were such fun places to be. The debate back then was about whether all the big chains would kill the independents – not whether Borders or B&N would survive.

My husband keeps insisting that physical bookstores are doomed. If we’re all ordering our books from B&N online, eHarlequin and Amazon, why do we even need physical stores? My best answer is that we all love to be there, but I’m not sure it’s enough if we all browse in the store and then order online. Still, losing Borders seems like a huge blow to community and gathering space. Are we circling back to the time when large bookstores are only in the city? When it’s a big event to pile in the car and go to Tattered Cover? It’s fun at Tattered Cover, but their romance section has always been awful. I hope Barnes and Noble can find a way to make it work.

And Borders: Thanks for the memories.

- Blythe AAR

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44 Responses to Thanks for the Memories

  1. SN says:

    I’d certainly buy books in stores if that were possible. But books that cost $5 in the US cost $35 in Australia, and hardly any of the books I read are even on sale here. The government is trying to force us to read books only by Australian authors (sound like the USSR?!). The situation here is far worse here than in America – here all of the bookshops are closing. Literally – the malls almost have no bookshops anymore.

    But you know what? If you refuse to sell me what I want, and you charge me 7x the price when you actually have something available, I don’t care if your business fails.

    But bookshops overseas? That’s so terrible that they’re closing. Borders was my favourite.

    I still do – and always will – prefer print books. I find it sad that it’s getting to the point you can’t just walk around a store and see what you find. ebooks have their merits (and I use my Kindle every day, even though Australians aren’t allowed to buy most Kindle books!), but they don’t have all the advantages real books do.

  2. AAR Sandy says:

    I have many happy bookstore browsing memories, but, sadly, none of them took place at Borders. I’ve blogged before about my opinion of their business model – every store I ever went to (and they used to dominate the DC market) did a poor job with romance. Ditto the indies – though that’s even worse. (Politics and Prose, the much lauded indie bookstore, wouldn’t touch romance with the proverbial 10 footer.) Borders closed all the DC stores in April, so I’ve already done my farewells. I feel sorry for the employees and wish them the best of luck finding new jobs.

    Book buying has changed, there’s no doubt about it.

  3. lauren says:

    Well if bookstores are to be doomed…make sure you support your local libraries to insure that the printed word and the freedom to read is not sacrificed too! (not everyone can afford Ereaders or printed books) For me there is nothing like the seduction of reading a printed book and turning the pages…I will be a belligerent child when it comes to crossing that bridge to the Ereaders and such!

  4. LeeAnn says:

    Definitely support the libraries or they’ll go the way of the Post Offices!

  5. Ida R says:

    I agree with Sandy about the indie bookstores. We have a great indie bookstore in Austin, TX called Bookpeople. It’s where all the book signings happen and they have wonderful local book selections. However, the romance section is sadly lacking, with only 3 floor to ceiling bookshelves,the smallest selection in the store compared to the 8-10 science fiction section and I never see new releases put out on time. As much as I want the physical bookstores to succeed, marginalizing romance readers just encourages me to not shop at those bookstores.

  6. maggie b. says:

    I still buy at physical book stores. In fact, I purchase electronically only if:

    The savings are huge
    I need it right this second.
    I am somewhere (God forbid) that doesn’t have a book store.

    I hate to see them go. I receive many recommendations online but the fact is, I still browse. Browsing a bookstore doesn’t just yield literary finds, its a relaxing past time for me. Bookstores are also just a great place to take your kids if you want to kill a few hours. We would look through movies, music and books and almost always ended buying a half dozen things we hadn’t even realized we desperately needed :-)

    I preferred Borders to my local B&N where the employees are so unknowledgable I have to wonder if they keep their eyes closed while unpacking the boxes.

    Borders mad some really bad decisions business wise but I am sorry to see them pay the ultimate price for it.

  7. JMM says:

    I’ll miss Borders. I usually bought from there; I got a lot of coupons. The Barnes and Noble is ok, the staff is usually nice. But the Borders staff seemed to know more.

    I agree about buying paper books; I buy Kindle books only if the price is lower or the books are out of print. (Did you know that CVS carries Amazon Gift Cards if you don’t like to use credit online?)

  8. DJ says:

    Frankly, I’m still mourning the small, local bookshops owned by people I knew personally, which all closed when Borders and Barnes & Noble opened in our county.

    Maybe there will be room for smaller bookshops again, now that one of the behemoths is gone, maybe not.

  9. Xina says:

    I purchase electronically for the convenience…and my credit card loves me for it.Sadly. However, I still buy and read paper. Heck, I have 5 paper books on my reading table at this moment and I’m reading them all. I happen to love bookstores and still support them. I wasn’t too crazy about Borders though, and ended up never visiting the store in my shopping area. I have always preferred B&N and the many indie bookstores in my area. I have a friend who loves her kindle and doesn’t buy paper at all anymore. She thinks bookstores will be gone in 5 years. I disagree and hope she is wrong. Make a good go of it B&N. We will all be watching.

  10. Susan/DC says:

    I went to the same Borders as AAR Sandy but had a different experience there. While some of the staff were as snobby about romance as the staff at Politics & Prose, many others were extremely helpful. Plus Borders:

    o Had at least twice the stock of romances as B&N
    o Carried categories (which I can’t find at the DC B&N so assume they don’t carry them)
    o Frequently reshelved the books in proper order (which, again, B&N rarely seems to do so books are shelved willy-nilly and it becomes impossible to find anything).

    I spent many Sunday afternoons at the Borders near my house and still mourn its passing, but once it closed the death of the larger chain doesn’t have much impact. Now that I can’t roam the shelves and browse, I’ve probably bought 75% fewer books in the last few months. Good for my finances and I’m working my way through my TBR pile, but I miss bringing home new books. Most of all, however, I feel bad about the 11,000 employees who are now out of work.

  11. maggie b. says:

    I have been fortunate to have good friends that worked at Borders and at our local store, as well as our local franchise of Half-Price Books (what can I say, long winters must make for lots of readers :-). We still have three book stores within a 15 mile radius of our home. I am just sad to see this book store go.( We needed four. Really, we did!) And like Susan, I feel for the people who will be out of work. In our area we have lost several chain stores over the last two years. Going Out of Business Sales used to be a shopping bonanza for me. Now they just bum me out.

  12. Detra says:

    I have two Borders stores that I frequent (one by work and one by home), and I love them both. They both had terrific romance sections. The staff was always friendly and helpful. A couple of time they even recommended new authors based on books I was buying. I have owned a Kindle for about a year and a half now. Thanks to the current publisher’s pricing policy, I was still buying half of my books in paperback. The weekly coupons Border’s sent me every week allowed me to purchase books at much better prices. I do like the convenience of the Kindle, but I have a serious issue with paying the same for an e-book as a paperback. I will miss Borders. I guess I will start making more trips to my library.

  13. RobinB says:

    Yes, folks, PLEASE support your local libraries! I am a retired professional librarian who is now volunteering at a branch of the Miami-Dade (FL) library system. We have a new county mayor who was elected on the promise to cut taxes (the previous mayor had raised taxes to pay for county services and was recalled as a result). One of the consequences of cutting taxes is cutting of services, including libraries. The original idea was to close several under-performing small branches, but there was such an outcry, that the closure was rescinded.
    So what’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, there is still going to be less money, so all part-timers (mainly students) will be let go at the end of September, and a number of full-time employees will be let go as well. In addition, hours of service will be cut at all branches, and. . .well, you get the picture! Sorry for venting, but I know that many of you love libraries, and I just had to get the word out!
    About Borders–the store near me was always well-stocked with romance novels, and the employees have always been very good about keeping the shelves of all types of books (fiction and nonfiction) in good order (unlike the local Barnes & Noble store). I feel very badly for the employees of my local Borders, many of whom have been at the store for many years. Like many, I have an e-reader (a NOOK), and while it’s quite convenient for things like traveling, I still like to have a real book in my hands sometimes. Now, I will have one place to buy one!

  14. library addict says:

    I’ll miss Borders. I had the opposite experience of AAR Sandy, all the Borders in Las Vegas and the one here in Indiana were very romance friendly, with well-stocked, well-organized romance sections.

    The store here closed in April, but I was using their website to buy all of my print books and many of my ePub ones. Yes, it was a total bummer they waited until the book’s release day to ship it, but I could live with that.

    There’s a B&N here at the mall, but I don’t like to shop there as the staff is romance snobby and they have more kids’ toys than romance books.

  15. Diane says:

    This is sad news indeed!

  16. Blythe says:

    What I’ve been wondering…before the MALL bookstores (Walden, B.Dalton), where did people buy books? Just curious.

    My Borders had a great selection of category romances as well. But really, I don’t miss print books. I love my nookcolor with a passion.

    As for the snotty independents, my husband and I debate every so often whether they have crappy romance sections because romance readers don’t buy there, or if romance readers don’t buy there because they have such crappy sections. (Chicken? Egg?)

  17. Leigh says:

    Borders is not getting a break with with their liquidation sale.

    I used to buy books at my local drugstore, and discount store. And of course I spent a lot of time at my library and used books stores.

    I love my kindle because a large chain store is 40-60 minutes away. With gas prices so high it is not feasible to drive an over an hour for $8.00 book. Now my local Wal Mart and Target have most of the books I want. Sometimes I visit our bookstore (combination movie rental, books, music) but unless it is a popular book it is not there. I have just become too use to ordering books online or a kindle book.

  18. renee says:

    Growing up in Chicago, Kroch and Brentano’s was the local book store I frequented. They are standalone stores and no mall presence. I still have many fond memories of reading there. I admit I am sold on my Sony reader, nook color and audiobooks but there is still something to be said for browsing and curling up in the aisle with a book or discovering a new author that I am not familiar with.

  19. Judy says:

    I hate to see stores shutting their doors. I hardly ever shopped Borders, am fond of Barnes & Nobles (if I can’t wait for new to come to used paperback stores). Guess the ereaders popularity is affecting paperback and hardcover sales.
    The libraries haven’t suffered from new technology, plus no charge.

  20. Liz says:

    We lost our big Borders store in April and now the Borders Express in the mall is closing. I spent many hours wandering the aisles finding books and getting recommendations from the staff. Borders was always the only place in town with a decent romance section. The local independent store has ONE bookcase of romance novels and it only has five shelves, it’s almost laughable. Talk about marginalizing romance novels and romance novel readers! I guess it just means they won’t get my business and I’ll get my romances from the library or buy more books online.

  21. Linda Lee says:

    In Canada, Chapters is THE bookstore for new books. In Winnipeg, we have McNally Robinson to offer a choice, but, in most Canadian cities, Chapters is the only choice. There are some “issues” with its “big box” approach but, by and large, I find them satisfactory.

    I admit, I love having books I can hold in my hand. My house is filled with book shelves (all filled and many overfilled); I carry my “search list” with me at all times; I tour my “circle” of local used bookstores at regular intervals, AND search out used book stores in other communities whenever I travel. I used libraries a lot when I was younger, but, over the years, I’ve evolved into a “collector” as well as a “reader” so, if it’s worth reading, I like to OWN it. When all else fails, and I REALLY want the book, I order on-line.

    In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate e-books as well. They are MUCH easier to carry from place to place on my iPod and iPad, especially in the numbers that I read; don’t take as much room to store (again, the numbers); can be easily adjusted to larger font sizes as a older reader’s eyes change; and usually cost less. As I discovered during a year in China, they can also be purchased, in whatever language you need, from anywhere in the world (except when you run into copyright barriers, ugh!).

  22. Norma says:

    I will miss my local Borders here in San Antonio, TX. I could spend a whole day there. The enjoyment of reading a good book on a cold winter’s day, with a fire going in the fireplace and a glass of white wine is unequaled. We still have B & N but I worry for them, too.
    RIP Borders!

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