Elegy for Borders
2011-07-22, 9:13 p.m.
recently on Chaos Attraction
We have a lot of bookstores in this town. There's the indie bookstore. There's the campus bookstore. There's the off-campus-still-sells-textbooks bookstore. There are several good used bookstores like the one a few blocks from me. There's a good selection of used at the SPCA and some more at the other thrift store. So it's not like my hometown where there are NO bookstores whatsoever. It's not like I don't spend time in other bookstores on weekends. Hell, I spent last weekend in the indie bookstore because they were offering free ARCs with $20 purchase.
But still, Borders closing kills me. The variety. The random items all over the place that give me such food for thought when bored or trying to figure out Christmas gifts. The fairly huge selection of books. Specifically the selection of subjects I like to research like hippie-dippie stuff and psych books and crafts. I am in there quite frequently, as it's the closest bookstore (other than the campus one) to my work so I can pop in during lunch. I spend hours in the place reading books I might get and browsing through books next to those books, and figuring out if I want to get them or not when I flip through them. Online has the best way to find pretty much any book, but there's only so much ability (if there is any at all) to flip through them and see if I'm going to like them once I paid the money. Sometimes I get stuff I wasn't planning on getting, sometimes I put books down. And you can't so much look at the books next to the books on the online selection. I am going to HATE THIS. There's 3-4 new books in series I read that are coming out at the end of July. Now I'm going to either have to wait a few days after release to see if the indie gets them in, or order all of them online. GRRR.
Today I trudged over there, the usual ten-minute walk, but I wasn't bouncing with excitement to do it this time. When I got there, the parking lot was swarming with cars. There are liquidation signs everywhere. They closed the cafe and the bathrooms (seriously, the bathrooms?! They blocked them off with bookcases, no less) and the computers for good. I wonder where the employees are peeing. And the place was packed. My town is a book town and everyone was in there. You say kids these days don't read, but I saw plenty of teenagers in there looking at books. It made me wish I'd called in sick to work had I realized it'd be THAT BAD in here during the noon hour. It was both sad and frantic at the same time. The line snaked around and was going about 3/4 of the way to the back of the store. I realized that as opposed to my usual browsing time being between about 12:10 and 12:45 p.m. before I needed to hit the line and still get back by 1 was... not gonna work. I resolved to get in line by 12:30. Hah. I also resolved to keep this book trip to about $100 when it came to spending. How long was that going to last?
For a liquidation sale, the sales are not THAT great. Most books are 10 percent off, a few sections are 20 or 30 percent off right now. I felt like there wasn't time to browse or think about what I was getting because everybody would be grabbing (plus time crunch factor). Given my research topics and limited amount of time, I went to the hippie-dippie section (10 percent off) and the psych section (20 percent off) and grabbed a couple of books from each, all ones I'd pondered buying in the past and then weeded out to save money. I wanted to hit the fiction section but there wasn't time. I debated buying the hardback fiction books that I've been putting off buying until they come out in paperback because I'm tired of acquiring more giant brick texts around the house when I don't have to. I also grabbed two colorful moleskine notebooks. I use these notebooks from Borders for a certain writing project of mine and I thought, "crap, I'll never be able to get MORE of these again." I grabbed them for spares-- hopefully the three I have on reserve will last me until 2012 or so.
I got in the line at 12:35. I realized around 12:40 that there was no way I was getting back to the office in time and thanked the gods that my temporary(?) boss is on vacation this week and nobody was going to notice my late arrival. (Not that anyone is a stickler like that that I've seen, but still, I like to be prompt.) Then I spotted my other book-loving coworker passing by. He was in line about 10 feet behind me by the time I got to the front. Normally I'd probably have started reading books while standing in the line, but I wasn't in the mood. While in line I tried to shop for whatever random crap was in my vicinity. You find yourself having thoughts like, "Do I want a book on nun bowling? Do I want a lawn gnome? I'll never have the chance to buy these things again." Then you try to remind yourself that you weren't massively interested in buying them in the first place. It's hard to keep your judgment when you know it's the LAST CHANCE EVER to do well, anything. Would I buy this stuff if I had no opportunity to do it again? Uh.... I resolved to come back after work so I could have more time to think this shit out more.
I got out of there at 1. Looking at my receipt, I would have normally spent $89.86 today, but saved $19.82. Kept it under 100 this trip. The poor employees both looked overloaded and like they were working in a coma. On my way back I ran into the former owner of the bead store (the only other person besides my parents that I have met with my last name; she yelled it out at me and I was thinking, "Uh, yeah....?" Didn't recognize her with her hair up in a hat and no glasses. The Reverse Clark Kent actually worked for a second...). She asked if I was still crafting, yes, she's selling at shows in Southern California. I said I'd come back from Borders and she said she didn't want to go over there because of the crowds, maybe she'd go later. I said, "There's not going to be no crowds, you might as well just go."
I went back after work and was in there for about three hours. It was still just as crowded. People brought dogs in there, and were sitting on the floor (something the employees usually yell at you for, but who cares now). One lady apparently had NO IDEA all of the stores were closing and it made me wonder where she'd been all week. One dude was griping that he wanted an employee to look up a Dungeons and Dragons book for him that he couldn't find because "maybe it was in the back." I told him they couldn't look up books and there was no back and if it wasn't here, it was gone.
I got another notebook for another writing project (10% off), one crochet magazine with a pattern (40% off- for the record, the stuff that is 40% off is magazines and Blu-Ray), four fiction books (I pruned down. Three were 10% off, one was 30%) in series that I like, two business books on how to change yourself that I'd looked at before and not bought (30%), one more hippie book on divination and decision-making (10%), and a mosaic craft book I'd been eyeing for years and now is useful for my class (10%). I thought about buying the resin jewelry book I've always eyed, but upon rereading it (see? being able to read the book in the store is useful for selling or not selling) realized that was way too freaking complicated to do on my own and put it down. This time my spending was right at $100, saving me $38.30. Thanks, Borders Rewards Plus, a card I have gotten good use of since Christmas and will probably never use again!
I wanted to cry the whole time. I don't cry because feeling like I've been put into a blender on "puree" never makes any situation better, but still.
And yet, there are still baby ducks in the world (though really, isn't it past baby duck season? Where the heck did they come from?), and it's a beautiful weather day, and I'm not laid off (even if 11000 poor Borders bastards and my fellow townies are) so I can afford this last-minute book buying spree plus handle fabric store shopping for my upcoming corset workshop class, and the new oracle deck I ordered online just came in the mail. So things could be worse.
This still sucks donkey balls though. I don't want Real Bookstores to go extinct, darn it. Even though our indie store still lives on, and the used bookstores will probably continue, I am deathly afraid that in a few years, going into an actual bookstore to look at actual books will not be possible any more. And that is a vital thing for me. Who knows how long Barnes and Noble will last at this rate, since they're the last one left and indies are well, you know.
Can someone get Barnes and Noble to come in here, please?