Last week, a friend mentioned she had gone out to Borders in her hometown to look around. She said she felt bad picking over the bones of a dying business, but mentioned that everything was for sale, including the shelves.
I’ve been dreading, and wanting, to go to Borders before it closed the doors for good. So I drove out to the store in my town and took a look around.
Going into the store was strange. First, there were a lot of people there for a Wednesday afternoon. A lot of people. Everyone seemed happy and excited to be shopping. Most of the paperback genre fiction section had been picked over pretty heavily. Only the top 2-3 shelves had books and there was lots of extra room even though many of those books were faced. Paperbacks were going for around $5.50 and they were nearly gone.
The kids books, young adult, and non-fiction all seemed to have a strong selection left, but many of those books were hard cover and I don’t think the sales were knocking the prices down to “grab-me” levels. CD’s and DVD’s (about $13 and $17, respectively) looked like they’d been culled.
But the thing that most surprised me was that the other non-book items, which were also on sale, hardly seemed disturbed. Why does this surprise me? I’ve been hearing for years that bookstores have cut down on shelf space for books so they could stock the items that sold much better than books–games, coffee cups, stationary, magnets, toys. I know some of those things have a higher profit margin than books, but still…here I was, standing at the end of a business that often thought selling other things was better than selling books, and the only thing I saw people buying were books.
It made me happy. It made me sad. It made me realize I am going to miss that store, miss the bigness of it, miss the newness of the books, miss browsing shelves for hours and then sitting down with my treasures to buy over a cup of coffee with the lovely ladies of my bookclub.
As I walked out the door, it felt like the end of an era, the closing of a story. Even though the big bookstore wasn’t always a hero in that story (Borders drove several independent bookstores out of business, and as a writer I never understood some of the corporate decisions it instituted) I still remember the beginning of the big new bookstore that moved to our town, and I am sorry to see its end.