Thursday, April 7, 2011

Did Borders Jump the Gun?

I read, but apparently not enough to know that Borders was going out of business for good. This came up when I walked around the corner at City Hall and South Broad and noticed the giant "Going Out of Business" signs.

"Great," I thought, "another massive store on Broad Street going under."

I mean sure, FYE is great when you want a cheap movie and don't feel like waiting for Netflix, but come on, Tower Records was a global institution. It doesn't help that FYE did nothing to brand the space its own, leaving it looking like a large outlet.

Just like record stores and Blockbusters, book stores have finally succumbed to the same technological kiss of death. No one would have ever dreamed that the romance of the printed page would give in to iStuff, but the Kindle (surprisingly not an Apple product) has cornered a market reserved for the few who still appreciate the lost art of literature.

The Big Book Store had become an urban treasure. Open for breakfast, constantly filled with coffee drinkers and hipsters, reading, studying, conversing, well until the twilight, a never ending crowd of customers would have never signalled any struggle. But by the end of the last decade, bookstores had become little more than a hip library.

In fact, many struggling public libraries have managed to compete with their money-making rivals by providing customers with the same atmosphere, and obviously, free books.

The irony, of course, is the Big Book Stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble were the pariahs of the 90s, accused of driving hundreds of independent bookstores underground or out of business, and leaving public libraries forgotten in the dusty stacks.

And now, the truth is, not everyone wants to read a book on an iProduct. There is a relaxing anxiety in the anticipation of the turned page, one you don't get with the press of a button or the click of a mouse.

While the Kindle may be the death of the Big Book Store, it may have breathed new life into the few remaining independent bookstores. So while I'll mourn the loss of a massive, and popular retail presence on South Broad Street, I welcome the resurrection of the quirky shelves of the homegrown bookstore.

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