Browsing won’t be the same

Borders bookstores are not long for this world.  I’m very sad to see it happen.

Shelf for shelf, the Borders store near West Town Mall in Knoxville, TN has the finest history selection of any general bookstore I’ve ever visited. I think every major historical time period, place, and subject is covered there, from Mesopotamia to the War on Terror. Along with releases from the big commercial publishers, I can always find an excellent assortment of titles from academic and independent presses.  The Civil War books alone take up an entire section of ceiling-to-floor shelves and spill over to part of another bookcase.

On a number of occasions I’ve spent two hours or more there; in fact, my family used to drop me off at Borders and then come back to pick me up after shopping all over half of the city.  Whenever I want to kill a lot of time in Knoxville in blissful contentment or do some seriously hedonistic splurging, there’s never been any question about where I’ll go to do it.  But I suppose now there will be.

As much I like the selection and prices I can get from online book retailers, there’s no substitute for being able to scan the shelves. I’m a physical book person.  I don’t own a Kindle or any other type of e-reader, and I never will.  When I browse for books I want the same things I want when I read them.  I want to pick them up and feel their heft, and I want to appreciate the grain and color of the paper.  Above all, I want to riffle through the pages and savor that smell.

There are plenty of other big bookstores, of course.  In fact, West Knoxville has three others of comparable size within a mile or two of the very one I’m discussing.  And these days it’s not very fashionable to lament the downfall of an enormous franchise anyway, so I guess this post would probably be more politically correct if I mourned the loss of some small, independent bookshop.  But that Borders was my store, and being a history buff and book lover won’t be the same once it’s closed.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Browsing won’t be the same

  1. I’m probably part of the cause of the demise of Borders, because I do love me my Amazon “buy-with-one-click” button.

    But I understand and share the love of a real, honest-to-God bookstore. It must run in the family. When my nephew was engaged, one of the early signs of trouble came when his fiance revealed she just could not understand how he could spend over an hour “just looking at a bunch of books” at B&N.

    • Michael Lynch

      The only silver lining here is that I’ll bet they’re going to have the mother of all clearance sales.

      –ML

  2. Bill

    I agree about the physical part, holding a book is way different than just reading a blurb on-line. That said, I do have Sony reader, a hand me down from my wife, Nice to take when she is shopping for clothes!

  3. Ron

    I too lament the loss of Borders. We had one in DC a few blocks from where I work, and it was one of the first to go in the first wave of closures. I would often head there to check out the latest Civil War and other American history books on my lunch break. Borders actually brought quality history books to the suburbs of Pittsburgh where I grew up — I worry about the loss of such outlets in areas that have few physical alternatives for locating history books beyond the pop best sellers. (I understand that not all Borders were like this, but the ones I frequented certainly were.)

    In some ways I feel guilty, because I often buy books online for a lower price than at brick-and-mortar stores. But on the other hand, I would still splurge if I saw something I really wanted at Borders.

    As you, I have a passion for the physical book and can’t imagine having a Kindle. At least my small, used book store speciailizing in military history is still in business. When that is gone, I will truly cry!

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