Monday, February 21, 2011

Goodbye, Borders...

and don't let the door hit you in the rear.

I read an article in the newspaper in which the author bemoaned the fact that she had aided in the "killing of the bookstore." Borders was her main topic, since it has announced bankruptcy and the closing of most its stores. I have mixed feelings about the death of local bookstores. First, I don't mind seeing Borders go at all. I haven't been there in several years, but the times I did try to shop there were a nightmare. They never seemed to have the books I wanted, everything was overpriced, and their employees appeared unknowledgeable and rude to me. I've always disliked that store and am not surprised to see it go under.

However, I am sad to think that most local independent bookstores have already been dead a long time. That isn't recent news. Big chains and Amazon pushed the majority of them out a long time ago. Are we going to kill the big chain local bookstores now also because of Amazon and new devices like the Kindle? I don't know. It would be sad to have no physical place to go in order to browse and buy books. But to tell the truth, I haven't shopped at a physical bookstore in years (unless given a gift card.) It's hard for me to pay more for books at a Barnes and Noble when it's so easy to order them online. And frankly, I only order books online after I check and find them unavailable at the library. I must be the cheapest bibliophile in history.

What I haven't included in my definition of bookstore, though, is Half Price Books. That kind of store seems safe to me. It's the perfect place to recycle used books one doesn't want around anymore and pick up new, cheap reads. If this store gets pushed out of the way eventually, it will be long after the big "new book" chain stores close down. But even it isn't safe as long as e-readers are pushing into the limelight. When physical copies of books become scarce, even Half Price will fall by the wayside.

But will physical books become a thing of the past? It seems like people still love to hold a real book in their hands. But technology makes getting and reading electronic books easier, faster, and cheaper all the time. I think the desire for real books is fading fast. There will always be a few sticklers, but popular demand is in favor of electronic books right now. I'm on the fence. I guess I can see things going either way and feel okay with whatever happens.

I do want to emphasize, though, that e-readers are not more eco-friendly than paper books. At first glance it might seem that they are since making books involves chopping trees. But the energy that goes into making those electronic devices and the fact that they don't last as long as real books makes them harder on the environment.


Jenni said...

I love the idea of having tons of books at my fingertips, but there isn't a great library system yet for the e-book market. As I buy very few books now, I really don't want to have purchasing electronic reads to be the only option. Hopefully we have a while until printed books fall by the wayside.

BECKY said...

I think an electronic library system is right around the corner. The local library here is about to launch e-borrowing via the application overdrive. Many other libraries have already done that. I don't know how good the system is yet but can't wait to try it. Even if it isn't an ideal system, I bet it will be transformed into one within the next few years.

Rachel said...

I was never a fan of Borders either. I could never find anything...I think their organization was way off what most people expect when they walk into a book store. But I also haven't been there in years. I would be kind of sad to see all book stores disappear, but who knows? They just might. It's not like I'm spending a lot of time browsing the aisles at Barnes and Noble these days or anything. I am enjoying the instant gratification of downloading books and not having to store them on my shelf after reading them. That, and not having to take my two kids along with me to get a book. Priceless.