Home > Books, In the Media, Life in General > Carrion Birds and the Carcass of Borders

Carrion Birds and the Carcass of Borders

Like many other book nerds I know, I was lured to my local Borders by the big yellow and red “Going Out of Business” signs in the window promising sweet deals. I’ve spent enough money in that store not to feel like a complete hypocrite, but it wasn’t like any other trip I’d made to the store. Even picking up the first thing that drew my interest and calculated how much it would be after the discount, I felt a little like a vulture picking at the carcass.

Given the widely advertised discounts, I wasn’t the only carrion bird circling and plucking at the tasty morsels still remaining. The birds in this flock were very different than the normal clientele. Normally, the people roaming around my local Borders are a quiet bunch, respectfully going about their business of browsing, searching through the shelves of titles. Others would be happily camped out in the cafe typing away at their computers, marking up text books with highlighters, or leaning over cups of coffee in hushed conversation. It was a peaceful place, even with the occasion giggling pack of mall rats wandering through.

But this trip was very different. It was like being at a wake, but a wake where the mourners were eager, excited participants leaning over the edge of the coffin, reaching in and taking what catches their attention. I’m no stranger to retail therapy in bookstores, and I’m a little ashamed of what I walked out of there carrying.

Everything was different. Just walking in to the store, one can usually catch the faint scent of coffee wafting down from the cafe upstairs, hear the music piping through the speakers and the almost library hum of murmuring voices underneath it, and the low thrum of commerce as the shoppers milled through the stacks, (usually) respectfully excusing themselves when they got in someone else’s way. This time, it was…loud and it was packed. The week-before-Christmas packed, and like the pre-holiday throngs, people were less than discriminating about the things they laid hands on and carelessly laid aside on the top of a shelf, or on an unrelated table. Furthermore, the staircase up to the cafe was roped off, the associates were understandably moody and short-tempered, understaffed and unable to access their computer system to answer the questions being thrown at them right and left about what was in the store or not. The scavenging tourists  It was the most depressing time I’ve ever spent in Borders…aside from the pre-Christmas rush, that is. No one was really in a good mood, and it was probably the most unfulfilling episode of retail therapy I’ve ever indulged in.

It’s sad to see such a giant go. Over the years (and through a few different states), I’ve spent some great times in Borders reading, getting lost in a world of books and book-ish people. I’ve spent some great afternoons in the cafes drinking cup after cup of coffee and writing until my hands ache. I know that it’s a measure of progress, and I know that it was a long chain of poor decisions that led the giant to trip the light fantastic all the way down the beanstalk, but it’s still sad to see it happen.

I try to share the love, but like any other recession-crunched selective spendthrift, I don’t make every purchase locally and I’ve been known to suckle at the massive corporate teat of amazon.com because, damnit, their prices are pretty awesome and free shipping just makes it an even sweeter deal. I feel a little guilty in my part in the demise of this big box bookstore, especially when I look at the massive stack of books I brought home as a result of my last trip, but not guilty enough to commit to a local-purchase-only policy. Perhaps if there was an indy bookstore nearby…but until then…

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  1. August 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I just went to Borders myself last Friday night, for the first time since they announced the closing. I had been kicking myself recently for not spending the remainder of a gift card, because, as someone who has worked retail for a long time, I’ve had enough experiences where the closing companies would no longer take store credit… but who knows, maybe they have to now, legally.

    Anyway, I wrote about my visit in a post of my own yesterday. I never liked Borders at Christmas either, and this was as bad or worse. I ended up buying only one book, using all but 5 cents of my gift card, and then I had to get out of there. It was a very strange experience.

    The town where I live doesn’t really have any indie bookstores – which I love – either, so I’m not sure where my local book-buying is going to happen from now on… So I can relate with much of what you’re saying here.

    Thanks for your post. 🙂

  2. August 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Thanks for the comment! I know what you mean about it being a strange experience. It was very alien, but in a way, I’m glad I made the final trip. I won’t go back again because I’ve seen what I need to see and really, I don’t want to see it worse than it was this past week.

    Good luck to you on finding a local spot for book buying! I have to admit that I’m probably more fortunate as I live in the Charlotte, NC area, but I’m also far enough out that there aren’t any that are convenient (that I know about, at least). I’ll keep looking and I’ll definitely check out your post too!

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