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.