7.18.2011

For the Love of Bookstores - writercize #84

Borders Bookstore announced today that they are calling off the auction and liquidating all remaining stores and assets.  The beginning of this year, Borders closed over one third of their stores after filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy, in an effort to restructure and revitalize the company.  That attempt fell short as today they announced that the 399 stores that are left will be closed for good by the end of September.  Nearly 11,000 employees will lose their jobs, and authors, publishers and booksellers are scrambling to know where to go next in the on-paper writing world.  The company has not yet released a press release on their website, but a letter from the CEO to his employees was reported by newspapers nationwide.

Even e-book sales could be affected by the chain's demise.  According to MSNBC, many e-book readers go to the bookstore to browse for titles that they then download.

Although I wouldn't personally name Borders as my all-time favorite bookstore (that prize goes to reseller Powell's Books in downtown Portland, OR, which I blogged about in World of Words back in March), I do visit Borders at least once a month and generally make some purchase.

I am guilty of browsing for ideas at Borders like those e-readers; I generally browse and then buy from a reseller.  I don't own an e-reader and I'm not quite ready to make that jump.  That said, I would say it's nearly impossible for me to walk out of Borders without at least buying a coffee, a magazine, a couple of paperbacks for my kids and maybe a bargain book or two for myself.  In other words, I'm not dropping the dollars on a brand-new hardcover or $16.00 paperback, which I'll save the cash and buy secondhand, but I am certainly paying something for my hours of lingering.

I get a lot more ideas of what I'd like to read from employee recommendations and pulling book after book off the shelf and opening to read a page or two smack dab in the middle to see if it's my style than I do from my amazon "suggested reads" or Oprah's book club.  I like to take the time to discover a hidden gem, a new talent, an unknown author, and feel privileged to read their words.  

I get a lot more relaxation by walking through the front doors of the book store and breathing in the new books mixed with coffee and muted conversation than I do turning on my computer screen, with its harsh light and electronic buzz.

I know that Barnes and Noble will still exist, at least for now.  I know that there are other local, independent bookstores that I can (and will) visit, but I will miss my hours meandering through Borders.  

I am also a little afraid that books will follow the way of produce, hand-picked and displayed until we are only exposed to the same limited spectrum of choices from season to season, store to store.  I don't want my books to rely on social media, online advertising and Costco and book club selections to make it.  It concerns me as a writer, as a reader, as a lover of ideas, and as a lover of literature.  Diversity is good.  Strength in numbers.  

I am not anti-online sales, nor am I anti-e-readers.  If I ever try to walk down the path to publishing, I hope to make it an experience that e-readers and old-fashioned readers alike can enjoy.  I love clicking "buy" and seeing a book arrive at my doorstep days later, with the lovely anticipation as I wait for it to arrive.  Rather, I am pro-brick and mortar having the space to survive, and indeed to thrive, in the middle of this digital age.  And as long as people need work more than computers do, I want to give their smiling faces an opportunity to get a retail job and make my day happier as I walk through that door.

So, how does this relate to writercize you ask?  Here you go:

writing exercise:  It's PR and marketing time!  Write a catchphrase that sums up why you think we should save the bookstores.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.
writercizer response:

Why brick and mortar?  Because no matter how far the digital world takes us, nothing compares to a book-loving employee smile, an author's autograph and handshake and millions of pages of poetry and prose at our fingertips.  Save the store to save the humans who keep reading a passionate affair.

6 comments:

  1. i am so sad! i loved to shop in and walk around a bookstore. you cant look at all the covers online. shopping for a book online is horrible! although it is futile, here is my slogan:

    Come to your senses! Touch the pages, See the covers, Listen to readings, Taste the treats and Breathe in the aroma of the Book Store experience!

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  2. I read Tara's clever idea that was inspired by this though-provoking post and just had to stop over. Here's my homework for today:

    Are you going to let Amazon tell you what to read? Will the loudest e-voices guide your future reading decisions? Or will you shut out the chatter, walk among the books, and choose for yourself? Go to a bookstore; read what YOU want.

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  4. If books were ever completely replaced by a Kindle, a Nook (or any ebook reader) then the following proverbs will have to be re-written:

    * Never judge a book by its cover
    [Never judge an eBook by it's battery power]

    * Bookworm
    [Kindleworm]

    *By the book
    [By the Nook]

    *Throw the book at you
    [Throw the Nook at you]

    It just doesn't sound right. Preserve the proverbs, don't boot the bookstores!

    (I must admit, however, I have been enjoying my first ebook from the convenience of my Net Top. It's easier to read in bed, especially in the dark, the highlight/notes/bookmark functionality is very useful and convenient, and last but not least, it can store a large number of books and easily take them on travel).

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  5. Some really great ones! You guys are putting mine to shame ... and I love it!

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