A strange set of circumstances brought me to two Borders stores 2000 miles apart in the space of a week.
It started when we realized that the local Borders store was closing while we were on vacation. Mary has had a strong affinity for that store for years and a gift card was often on her Christmas and Birthday list. She had two of the said gift cards and wasn’t able to use them before we left for Wisconsin.
“Why don’t you use them to get some DVDs for the trip?” she offered. “One has $5.00 on it and I’m unsure about the other.” Sounded good to me, so off I went to see what I could find. The line at the store snaked from the five cashiers through the entire store with probably more than 100 customers and more joining every minute.
Undaunted, I made my way to the DVD section and pawed through the stacks looking for bargains that I hadn’t seen. The choice was difficult, partially because I have more than 400 stacked around my walls, making the finding of a new one a challenge to say the least. But I settled on three, which I thought would exhaust the cards and not dramatically empty my pockets.
As I made my way slowly though the line I found that there was a separate section of on-sale DVDs, which might have included some better choices. Unfortunately the line began to pick up speed and I was afraid that if I left to look at my new choices I would be put at the back of the line again. Not worth the trouble.
Forty-five minutes from my start I was at the cashier who informed me that, after my purchase I still had about $5 left on one card. A glance at the line, now longer than before convinced me that Borders could keep their $5.
When we wound down our Wisconsin trip by visiting friends in Oak Brook, a Chicago suburb, Mary suggested we might check out Borders in a nearby mall. We did and she went looking for “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon”, one of our favorites, to give as a gift. http://www.amazon.com/Girl-Who-Loved-Tom-Gordon/dp/0671042858/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1312760101&sr=8-1 I went in search of “Unlikely Friendships” by Jennifer S. Holland, the daughter of a friend from my Writer’s Club. http://www.amazon.com/Unlikely-Friendships-Remarkable-Stories-Kingdom/dp/0761159134/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1312760333&sr=8-1 . It is a first novel by a writer for National Geographic and made the NY Times Best Seller list.
We both were disappointed as, because of the Closing sale, there was little clerk and no computer support to assist us. Mary ended up buying my Christmas stocking calendar for next year and used up the remnant dollars on the card. Our experience gave me pause.
What Mary liked about Borders has gone away, a casualty of the electronic book revolution. No more wandering through stacks, exploring books by interest section. No more friendly, knowledgeable, clerks, assisting you by hitting a few key strokes. No more book signings with coffee and pastries. No more assistance with prize books at bargain rates for Mary’s ESL essay winners.
Instead, and I am guilty myself, we will purchase more things online, knowing what we want before we shop, we will download books and newspapers to our tablet readers in ever-increasing numbers. We will read online at our Home site, articles either we or some website tracker decide will interest us. And eventually the remaining brick and mortar large bookstore will make the transition to electronic distribution.
Will small bookstores survive? Undoubtedly, and maybe that is the good news. People who love books will again find they can offer something at a reasonable cost and make a livable income. Book signings may again become intimate, and readers may again recover the experience of my youth, where the clerk in the store knew what I liked and made suggestions that stretched my reading limits, and who, in my case, kept my purchases on record so my parents could pay for them.
Next Blog, my discovery of Angry Birds.