O! let my books be

The original Borders, in Ann Arbor, Michigan: closed for good.
It is truly terrifying to see this once-loathed behemoth close its doors. I cannot deny that I buy many if not most of my books online -- these days, usually used, from Alibris or Amazon. When I don't just borrow from the library. But there are few things I love more than browsing a bookstore. And while I love the quirky charm and hand-selected editing of an independent bookstore, the behemoths offered many things the independents could not. Like in-store espresso bars, and a generous sprinkling of armchairs and tables where one could sit and read for hours without raising any eyebrows. They replaced libraries in many ways -- and were even better, because you can't drink coffee at the library. This particular Borders, above, was home to many long study sessions during law school. They even let me bring my dog! I have never encountered another business that equaled that hospitality.

The lack of a chain bookstore was one of the few things I reproached of my new, small hometown. I would much rather while away a rainy afternoon with Nugget in the generous children's section of a Borders or Barnes & Noble than at McDonald's Playland. The coffee would be infinitely better, for one thing.

So I mark the passing of Borders with grief, sincerely and deeply. With a tinge of rueful irony; I find myself thinking often of that movie, You've Got Mail. That was just 13 years ago! What will happen in another 13 years?

I'm no Luddite. I understand the appeal of e-books, and I welcome them as an invigorating new medium for literature. I love that the internet has made it possible to find virtually any book you could want, rendering moot the argument that chain bookstores were bad because they homogenized and shrank the range of books available. But I grieve, and I worry. Capitalism rewards the majority, and often, I'm in the minority. A minority that no longer has the luxury to vote with her wallet.

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