Farewell to Borders

I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I will never be having an autograph session at Borders Bookstore.

I had to get a little distance before I sat down to write this one.

Border's Bookstores are now closed. All of them.

Well, ok, maybe not all of them. I guess there is a handful that have been purchased by some company in Texas or something. For all intents and purposes, however, they are all closed.

All of the books are gone. The shelves have been picked bare by the literate carrion feeders who arrived to scavange the carcass of...

Oh who am I kidding? If you follow me anywhere on-line you know from my FourSquare check-ins that I have been to at least five different Borders since they first started closing. Most of them were visited more than once.

Yes, I officially have "enough" in my To Read pile.*

I am not going to get into a discussion of what factors led to the bankruptcy of the company. I don't have the ability to wrap my brain around business practices and such. Finance reports make my eyes glaze over. Seriously, I can't listen to them on news radio without getting into an accident.

Nor am I going to wail about the death of the book or how digital readers have destroyed a way of reading or any such nonsense. If you think I am anti-e-reader, you haven't been paying attention.** There is no reason that e-readers and analog books can't coexist. Mass market paperback did not kill the hardcover. Audiobooks didn't kill the paperback. A big meteor did not kill the dinosaurs.***

In all seriousness, I do not believe that pieces of paper bound together are going to disappear. At best the paper book may become the preferred medium for specialty books and collectors, but I don't see this happening anytime in the immediate future.

If you came here looking for a rant, I am sorry to disappoint. This is more of a wistful, nostalgia piece.

I don't know if it was my first ever trip inside a Border's bookstore, but it is the first I remember. The bookstore in question was the original Ann Arbor location. I was a young lad, precocious for sure and curious beyond my years. *4 Visiting Ann Arbor was always a big deal. Both of my parents graduated from U of M (as did my sister and a smattering of other relatives. I'm the black sheep of the family because my degree was earned at the Dearborn campus). There was always a trip to Ulrich's to pick out school supplies (yeah, I still get geeked buying school supplies) and new U of M gear. On this particular trip we went down the street to the book store.

I won't be trite and say it was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was, in fact, quite a bit like other bookstores that I had been in.

Only cooler.

I vaguely remember chairs and maybe a couch or something. Keep in mind, this was way before the days when one went to the bookstore to purchase a latte and check your e-mail on your lap-top.*5 What I remember most, were the shelves.

They moved.

There was a section of bookshelf which was on casters and connected to a rail at the top. It slid to one side to reveal a second set of shelves behind the first.

It was a totally practical way of essentially doubling the shelf space and thereby creating a means by which to offer a larger selection of titles.



At that moment I decided that when I got my house, I was so going to have sliding bookshelves like those in my library.*6

Sadly, this has not come to pass yet, but there really isn't a specific "library" at The Dragon's Roost.*7

I don't remember much else about that particular trip, but I am almost certain that I purchased one of the books I found when I moved that shelf to one side.*8

From that moment forward, Border's was my bookstore of choice. Fortunately there was one much closer in Southfield. It was just up the street from the mall I worked at in high school. If I wasn't working all the way to close, I would sometimes head over there after a hard day of selling books at Waldenbooks.

Yeah, you read that right.

I have a lot of fond memories of various Borders. Sitting in the Southfield location trying to decide which paperback to buy. Studying, writing, or just killing time at the Birmingham location. Standing in line for autographs -- everyone from Elmore Leonard to Michael Connelly to Mitch Albom. I was at the Arborland location when Laurell K Hamilton insisted that the store remain open hours past closing time in order to accommodate everyone who was in line for an autograph (despite having to ice down her wrist at one point).

Sure, the closing of the Borders bookstores is not going to stop my book purchasing, only shift it. Yes, I have a metric ass-load of books to read before I even need to start to think about buying another book. I will, however, miss the people who worked there. I will miss the tables pushed against the window. I will miss the joy of discovering a new title by a favorite author (or a new author).

I know it is just a building, a company, whatever. Still, it feels like I said goodbye to a friend I know is never coming back.

*Not that this will stop me from adding to the pile. When it comes to books I'm rather like Navin R. Johnson: "I don't need one more thing, oh, I need that."

**In fact I just downloaded the new Steven King to the Nook app on my iPad (while writing this on it).

***It's all a cover up. Dinosaurs are still

*4 All of which is my way of saying I have no idea how old I was. Call it late grade school.

*5 This particular trip pre-dated the popularity of the latte, the use of e-mail by anyone other than scholarly types, and the invention of the lap-top computer. Yeah, dark ages, baby.

*6 I was also going to have leather furniture, brass and green glass reading lamps, an old fashioned globe, a telescope, hidden passages behind the shelves, a fire pole which led from the bed room to the kitchen, a moat, and a rocket launch pad on the roof. What do you want? I was a kid.

*7 Partially for reasons of space, but mostly because every time I mention a library among my friends they get antsy. Particularly Professor Plum and Colonel Mustard.

*8 One of Keith Laumer's Retief collections.