Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Borders RIP
Desolation: A local Borders store, now completely devoid of books. The company is in the final stages of liquidation.

It’s official: Borders is now defunct.

What used to be our go-to place for books, CD’s, and even just plain hanging around to drink coffee and peruse the latest literary offerings is now an empty shell.

You could see the signs of impending doom from a great distance. Once upon a time, music held equal pride of place on the Borders shelves. Over the years, however, you could see the inventory dwindling as CD sales gradually became cannibalized by Internet-transmissible digital media. In the age of the iPod, after all, why buy a CD when you could legally download digital music file for far less - and use illicit file sharing to get that same music free, if you were of a mind to do so?

Books were different. It took longer for the internet to make inroads there, mainly because with music, the experience of listening - assuming reasonably equal sound fidelity - is the same regardless of the medium of transmission and storage. An iPod’s .mp3-driven sound is not quite as good as that of a CD player’s .wav files, but when you’re in the car, there’s no effective difference. With books, however, reading a digital tome on a Nook or Kindle is not quite the same tactile experience as a real, solid, hands-on book.

What killed Borders - in part, anyway - was the easy availability of those real, solid hands-on books from Internet-based sellers like Amazon. With Amazon, you got your book for a bargain price, generally without paying sales tax - and you only had to wait for it to show up on your doorstep. (If you didn't want to wait, you could buy an electronic copy and download it right away.) A brick-and-mortar operation could never compete.

It’s purely amazing that Borders was able to hang on as long as it did.

There is, to my jaundiced eye, a little karma in all of this. As in, “my karma just ran over your dogma.” The Wheel turns, raising up even as it brings down. As Borders, with its ubiquity and its economy of scale, did to the old mom-and-pop booksellers on Main Street, so has the Internet done unto it. It is the way of the world: The bear eats the slower runner, and the bear is ever hungry.

I will miss browsing those stacks of books, those racks of magazines. It was a great place to kill an hour or two.

Requiescat in pace, O Borders. Ave atque vale!

1 comment:

Claude said...

Allow me to share my favourite quotation on books:
A book is a mirror: if an ass peers into it, you can't expect an apostle to peer out.
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799)