Friday, July 22, 2011

Closing the Book

Today my daughter and I visited Borders for the last time.

This is a big deal for me.  One of my favorite places in the world is closing its doors.

The opening of Borders on island in 1993 also opened up a world of books that I would not have discovered otherwise.  Because of the books I happened upon on those shelves over the years, I became the reader I am today and, by extension, the person I am today.  Prior to that time, we only had a smattering of small bookstores with limited inventory, and the nearby public libraries really only stocked mainstream books and bestsellers.

Of course, since 1993, a lot has changed, and online stores and e-readers have changed the industry.  People's relationships to books are changing.  The paper book is dying, and I know this sounds melodramatic -- because it likely is -- but it feels like a part of me is dying, too.  As a reader, my habitat is not just threatened; it will vanish by the end of the month.

I have a limited number of happy places, and one of them is the -- was the -- bookstore.

I know, I know, there are other options out there, and I am a fan of Amazon, so it is not as if I have been cut off from books altogether, but I use Amazon to buy my "sure thing" books, the ones I don't need to hold in my hands, or browse through before reading; I use it to order my obscure or specialized books, the ones that Borders doesn't stock or has trouble keeping on the shelves.  So yes, I understand that in some way, giving Amazon my business has made me culpable; it has contributed to the death of Borders.  However,  it is not as if I have neglected my local bookstore -- trust me on that.  My empty wallet and overflowing bookshelves are the proof.

In any case, it's the end of an era, and how did I mourn?
I bought a bunch of books, of course!

The art section had been raided (so much for starving artists, unless they've been spending all their money on books instead of food), but I found a few gems.  I think this one was my favorite find:
You can find out more about it here, and see some of the images that it contains.  After looking through it for just a few minutes, I realized the potential this book has to revolutionize the way I journal.  And mostly, it's just cool.

I also picked up a book that I've been longing to read for some time:

Clearly my love for books will not end with the closing of Borders.  Amazon will come to appreciate me and my book addiction even more than it already does.

Still, I feel a little disoriented.  I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from Elaine Scarry:

"How one walks through the world, the endless small adjustments of balance, is affected by the shifting weights of beautiful things." 

Something is shifting right now, something that once gave me a sense of balance, and I think that's why the world feels a little off-kilter.  I'm not one to fight progress, but this doesn't feel like progress.  It just feels like an ending.


  1. So sad. I am resisting the e-book will all my might. I cannot imagine a world without paper books. Or perhaps I just can't imagine what my world would have been like without paper books.

  2. I remember my first Borders experience fondly - I don't have one near home so it was always a far-away special place. I'll be hoping you find a new place soon and your world gets back 'on kilter.' Also keeping my fingers crossed that the end of the paper book is not here.

  3. I remember being a kid at the mall. While others may have been dying to go to Macy's or Claire's, I pulled my mom into Borders every time. It was a small store, but I could peruse the shelves for an hour, or until my mom would tell me to hurry up already.

    I am guilty of not spending much time there as of late. I have little time to read 10 months out of the year. Still, I will miss an old friend.

  4. Thank you for your nice comment on my blog (about my handwriting)!

    It truly is sad to see a favorite bookstore close. I'm glad you got to have one last shopping spree there. I remember something similar when I was a teenager and a big bookstore in my city closed. I went on a little shopping spree there and got a tee shirt with a picture of Langston Hughes on it. I wore that shirt lovingly for years. I hope you'll enjoy the books you purchased on your last trip to Borders--they look very interesting!

  5. I am so incredibly sad about Borders--I almost cried when I saw the email. Glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. And I am so not on the ereader bandwagon--part of that is because I wouldn't use it on Shabbat, but mostly because I love having an actual book in hand.

  6. This is so true. My husband and I were talking about this as we checked out the going out of business sales. We totall agree that it is not a case of technology winning out, it just feels sad and wrong. I can't even imagine how much harder it must be on an island! I have started taking the kiddos to the library every once in a while, but it is nice to stop in a borders at the mall for some storytime too!