As you’ve probably heard, Borders is closing a number of its stores as it files for bankruptcy.
Part of me is doing a small, vindictive, schadenfreude-laden dance of EAT IT SUCKER! I remember when there were a fair number of independent bookstores in my area, charming little bookstores which started struggling and many of whom eventually closed as Borders and Barnes & Noble moved in. Admittedly, this is when I was a kid and didn’t have enough disposable income to do much book shopping, but my parents took me with them to bookstores, so I did notice the shift.
After college, I spent a lot of time in my local Borders where a guy had organized a regular Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game night. Every week, a handful of us would gather around a table the store kindly set up for us back in the music section, buy drinks from the store’s cafe, and stay until the store closed, gaming our little hearts out. I had a lot of fun — as a second-generation Tolkien nerd, I love LotR. The game was well crafted for the first few years, and a major championship game even made it to ESPN2 (one of my gaming group guys was on the commentary team for that broadcast, and had me coach him in correct pronunciation of the card names).
The group disbanded when the Return of the King release of the game was so bad that it made the game almost unplayable, but I always look back fondly on that time. Seeing the Borders when I drive past makes me smile. Even a corporate bookstore can be a positive location.
You’ll note, however, that I don’t smile because of hours spent buying books there.
I like to buy from indie bookshops when I can, and hopefully now that Borders is shrinking its reach the indies will start to thrive a little more. There’s even a handy list of indie bookstores near closing Borders stores you can consult for new places to go to get your hunt-or-gather on.
There’s something particularly charming about small indie bookshops. They don’t tend to have coffee bars or enough space for local gaming groups to hang out in them, but they tend to have knowledgeable employees and a rather more eclectic selection of books. Plus, the atmosphere just strikes me as me as more bookish! Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather browse in a bookshop that looked like this:
than like this:
I’ve done a lot of browsing in Borders over the years, but I can while away a lot more hours in a much more enjoyable way in indie bookshops. Long live indie bookstores!