Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Middle of the End?

In a crushing blow to bibliophiles everywhere (not to mention its 10,700 employees), Borders announced earlier this week that it would be closing its remaining 399 stores and going out of business by the end of September. (Earlier this year, Borders declared bankruptcy, closed approximately one-third of its stores and had hoped it would find a buyer to get it out of bankruptcy.)

Borders once operated as many as 1200 stores (some under the Waldenbooks name) and helped pioneer the mega-bookstore concept that was partly responsible for the demise of independent bookstores and smaller chains across the country. But now, with all Borders stores closing, what's left is Barnes & Noble, along with smaller chains like Books-a-Million and a smattering of small bookstores across the country.

For someone like me who would spend every day reading if I could, this is devastating news. Yes, I now have a Kindle, so I don't buy as many books as I used to, but bookstores are like a touchstone for me. As convenient as the Kindle is in terms of reading on the go and especially when traveling (I am a person who used to pack almost as many books as the number of days away), there's nothing like the feel of a book in your hand.

There's nothing quite like the smell that emanates when you crack open a new book.

And bookstores are wonderful simply to wander through aimlessly, as you never know what unknown author or new title you'll stumble upon.

I feel for those who are going to lose their jobs as the Borders stores close. And I feel for those of us for whom a bookstore is an oasis, a launching pad to propel us on our journey into a new book or alongside a new author.

I only hope that Barnes & Noble can hang on, because a world without bookstores isn't one I want to contemplate.

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