A World Without Borders

When Borders announced it is closing its remaining stores earlier this week, part of me died. My first Borders experience was with the original Ann Arbor store after moving to Michigan to be with my (then) fiancée. Since then my wife and I have spent many happy weekend hours browsing at Borders. The sensory, indeed, nearly hedonistic pleasure of being among books in a casual, friendly environment where ideas seemed to roam as freely as the bison on the plains before the Louisiana Purchase, is, sadly, about to end. Barnes and Noble never attained that balance nor has it ever aspired to it. I once met Jeff Bazos, the founder of Amazon, and he is a very nice guy. But when I buy books from his store, I never leave my living room. One of the intellectual’s guilty pleasures has been eradicated.

I grew up in a town with no bookstore beyond the local Christian supply shop. When a mall was built nearby and a Waldenbooks came in, I thought I was in heaven. Even the town where I attended college had no bookstores beyond the campus supplier. Borders represented the intelligent side of book buying, without appealing to the lowest common denominator. I can hear the nails being driven in from the pillow in my coffin. Our society is a post-literate one. As a person who has had many an unrepentant love affair with words, it feels like civilization itself has received a mortal blow. As I tell my students: the mark of true civilization is writing. Ever since the Sumerians invented it, it has been a means of release from reinventing the wheel with each generation. Our hearts, however, have gone after technology and gadgets and left bookstores in the dust.

Please allow me my eulogy here—I realize that reading will continue, but its context has morphed almost beyond recognition. I have watched while every employment for which I am suitable has silently gone extinct: higher education, libraries, museums, publishers—the pillars of culture itself. Gone is the day when a kid receiving his summer paycheck would beg his mother to drive the forty miles to the nearest bookstore where he would come out with not a cent in his pockets but his arms full of books. We can read about such idiotic behavior online. A border has been crossed, but some of us will linger on the other side hoping that the civilization we knew might somehow survive.

I had no idea this would become a collector's item

4 responses to “A World Without Borders

  1. Sad, real sad but it’s been coming. Ten yrs ago I biked across the US, biggest expense was the NYTimes and there always was a Borders or a Barnes-Noble in those small towns, cities I passed through, that is until I got to the Virginias. Seems that neither of them had a chain bookstore to get the Times and I had to go find a 12 step pgrm until I biked through the next state. There were small towns in the south where one could get a tattoo, a drink, ones Harley fixed, gas, fireworks, but no newspapers. I knew it was time to pedal on. Sad

  2. Pingback: Changing Literacy and Reading Habits around the Blogosphere | Exploring Our Matrix

  3. When I lived in Miami, Borders was the place to be for books, music and general community participation. I have an entire library of books purchased from one store. It was magical. Here in Montreal, there are a handful of bookstores (Chapters,Indigo, Paragraph books). These entities are similar to a Barnes and Noble. But they lack the community feeling and vibe of a Borders type experience. There are few reading nooks and the in-house coffee shop, but no feeling. The Harry Potter parties were the best nights at the bookstore events that have happened over the years.

    I buy all my books through Indigo here in the city. It is sad that a literary institution is going out of business. There is a monopoly on who sells books here in Quebec. All the small mom and pop and even lgbt book sellers were drummed out of business many years ago. I do a good bit of online shopping for all the books we can’t get over the border.

    There aren’t any “reading room” type book sellers anywhere in the city here. It’s more get in and get out. No sit and stay welcome.

    Jeremy

  4. Steve Wiggins

    Thank you, Joe and Jeremy. I see such closings as a sad commentary on society. The day of the book seems to be numbered. We must stand and be counted.

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