bordersAs I was updating AAR Saturday, Scarlett came downstairs and said, “I have a sad.” (Kids today aren’t sad anymore, I guess. they have sad). It turns out she’d just discovered what I already knew: Borders was officially through. The closest one to our home was already gone anyway, a casualty of the April carnage (and apparent last ditch attempt to save the company). But all of us still occasionally shopped at one in Park Meadows, a mall about thirty minutes away. Both stores that we frequented always seemed to be full of people – and not just people drinking coffee; there was always a line to buy books too. On a global level, there clearly were not enough of them.

I’m sure I’m part of the problem. Since getting a nook color for Christmas, I buy virtually all my books from Barnes and Noble, and nearly always in the electronic version when possible. When it isn’t possible, I usually go to the brick and mortar B&N right by my work, or order online with free two-day shipping. I used to buy more from Borders, but their Web site and shipping took forever, so I tended to use them only if I had a really good coupon and wasn’t in a hurry.

But oh, the Borders memories! We went to two Harry Potter midnight release parties there (one in Rapid City, South Dakota, on vacation, and one in our local Borders).  They were absolutely fabulous, and way better than the one at Barnes and Noble we went to for Half Blood Prince. So much time and preparation went into them, and the staff was fabulous.

We spent countless hours browsing and buying as a family. A friend worked there. And the coffee? Better than B&N’s.

I had a book cub meeting there. We all started at Coldstone next store and spontaneously wandered over. I can’t remember what book we were discussing, but I do remember one member insisting that Ayn Rand (famous, atheist Ayn Rand) was probably a Mormon by now.

Scarlett briefly dated some employee whose name I don’t remember, probably because she always called him “Borders guy.”

So many authors tweeting, “Writing at Borders today!”

Bookstores have certainly evolved and changed during my lifetime. When I was a kid (and teen, and college student) bookstores were the little B. Daltons and Waldenbooks in the mall. Big, browsing bookstores were mostly confined to the city. We’d go to a big Barnes & Noble in New York and Tattered Cover in Denver, but for us (and probably most people) this was not our everyday book-buying experience. When huge bookstores with cafes started popping up everywhere, it seemed like paradise to me. Granted, their romance sections probably didn’t have too much more than a Waldenbooks, which was pretty well-stocked. But they were such fun places to be. The debate back then was about whether all the big chains would kill the independents – not whether Borders or B&N would survive.

My husband keeps insisting that physical bookstores are doomed. If we’re all ordering our books from B&N online, eHarlequin and Amazon, why do we even need physical stores? My best answer is that we all love to be there, but I’m not sure it’s enough if we all browse in the store and then order online. Still, losing Borders seems like a huge blow to community and gathering space. Are we circling back to the time when large bookstores are only in the city? When it’s a big event to pile in the car and go to Tattered Cover? It’s fun at Tattered Cover, but their romance section has always been awful. I hope Barnes and Noble can find a way to make it work.

And Borders: Thanks for the memories.

– Blythe AAR