Sunday, February 20, 2011

Farewell to a good friend (part 1)

Ever since I was a small child, going to a bookstore was more exciting than going to Disneyland. From the living-room sized, fluorescently lit boxes in suburban malls to the double- and sometimes triple-deck stores of the booming 90s, I have spent many a happy moment meandering around bookstores – even when I couldn’t buy that day.

Borders is one of my favorite bookstores – “one of” standing proudly in a long row of favorite bookstores of all kinds, from chain to independent to used. (I like bookstores that contain books I want to read.) I feel special pride when I have the opportunity to purchase from an independent bookstore like Latitude 33 in Laguna Beach or Small World Books in Venice, CA. However, these two stores are not conveniently close to me. It also helps that Borders has a free discount card (the Barnes and Noble card costs $25 per year) with which one can receive discounts of up to 40% off.

This week, Borders announced its bankruptcy and will close about one-third of its U.S. stores, including two that are close to home – the one in Tustin District (which opened not too long ago, in August 2007) and the one at the Block in Orange (I saw it being built on the way to and from work in 1998).

I feel melancholy about these closings. Even though these are not the only two Borders close to me, I believe I spent more time in these two. I can see a book on my shelves and remember (for the most part) exactly where I bought it. Many of my books came from the shelves of the Tustin and Orange Borders stores.

I also feel guilty. For the past couple of years, I haven’t been buying books at Borders as much as I used to – mostly due to financial reasons, but also because of my Amazon Kindle. These days, when I am able to buy a book, Kindle is my first choice – unless a book has colorful illustrations. (That may change when I get my iPad.)

Recently, I visited the Tustin store with a buy one paperback, get one more at 50% off coupon. As I walked toward the storefront, I expected gigantic red and white signs screaming STORE CLOSING, but they weren’t there (yet).

Inside, it looked normal for a weekday afternoon – not that many customers, shelves full of current books and magazines. I looked for the book The Anti-9-to-5 Guide by Michelle Goodman, but it wasn’t there. (A store fails, if only a tiny bit, when it doesn’t have what you want.) I did find Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson. I have a semi-official rule not to buy new books by deceased authors (because they get no royalties), but I couldn’t find it at the library and it’s not available on the Kindle, either. (I think this is the kind of book that needs to be read on paper in Times Roman font anyways, just like it appeared in 1966.)

Now for one more paperback to satisfy the coupon requirements. I had a hard time with this. I looked for a useful book, one about the Chicago Style of writing, but the one in the computer was a.) not in the store, b.) not in paperback, and c.) cost $65.00. I looked in a few of my favorite sections, Biography, Self-Help, and Sociology. (Notice the multiple books about food in the Sociology section.)

Then I scanned Literature, and was about to take home a small paperback copy of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus (which, again, is hard to find in the library – and redundant because we have not one but two complete volumes of Shakespeare, but they’re hidden in our storage space), when I turned into the Spiritual section and found Creating Money by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer. I remembered this title because SARK had talked about it in a radio interview with “Mary in the Morning”. It was not the kind of book I’d thought I’d find at Borders – but I was grateful for the miracle, as it were.

In the next few weeks, I will visit the Borders in Orange and buy something (and take pictures, too). Life goes on, and sometimes things and places you love just aren’t there anymore – you know this, Flex shampoo fans. But somehow, you’ll still find what you essentially need.


  1. I have mixed emotions about this dramatic event (all the Borders stores in our area are closing). I'm sad for the loss of anything that promotes books, and particularly for the closing of the store that promoted me when I released my vampire book in 2009. But I'm also angry at the management of Borders for not doing what they needed to to keep their stores viable and save them.

    The observations you make in your post are telling. I too prefer ebooks now when buying "all text" type books (for my nook), both for the reading experience and for the environment. Meanwhile, I have even a harder time than you do finding what I want in the store, whereas online I can locate almost everything. Lastly, it's just plain cheaper to shop at online stores like Amazon that have no overhead so can pass on savings to customers.

    Barnes & Noble found a way to cope with these trends, so it is possible with foresight and flexibility. They are in the process of changing their brick and mortar stores into reading spaces that put much emphasis on ereading and carry less inventory. I know from my publishing business that Borders long bucked the ereading trend, and now Kobo just came along too late.

    If only Borders had been more forward thinking. I am sad to see these stores go!

  2. Great observations, Diana. Even though some Borders stores will remain open relatively close to me, I will most likely buy more books online. I also think Barnes & Noble should do what Borders did and make its rewards card free.

    You lost all of your Borders stores? Sad...