Why I Will Miss Borders

I feel like I’ve been grieving Borders all year, like it’s had a long, drawn out suffering period caused by a fatal illness. Even this last round of store closing sales has gone on much longer than was originally reported as the liquidators try to suck every dollar out of those who are trying to gain from the death of these bookstores.

For many years I’ve had a fondness for Borders. In middle and high school, I would always stop by to visit them in the mall, probably spending more time in the music section than in the books section (before that industry was completely obliterated by Napster and iTunes), though I often wandered among the stacks, staring at book spines and dreaming up Christmas wishlists of all the books I wanted to read.

Then I moved to Chicago and there were Borders everywhere. I’ve lived a few blocks from a Borders store for the past five years. That was a my go-to place to look for books, buy journals and escape sudden monsoon-like summer rains. I even applied for a few seasonal jobs there during college and bouts of unemployment afterward, though the competition was always pretty stiff. I was always worried about the store near my apartment. There was rarely anyone in it, never a line at the check out, though the employees were friendly, the exact cliche of writers and quasi-artists you expected to work there. Most of the people who frequented the Borders did homework or wrote in the coffee shop, or hid between the tall shelves reading books they never intended to buy. Part of me always suspected that the store wouldn’t last long, and it was one of the first to permanently shut its doors earlier this year.

Then there is the beloved gigantic Borders on the corner of State and Randolph downtown–the last one in the city to go. I can’t count the many hours I’ve spent there, waiting for the announcement of the Wicked front row ticket lottery (and winning a few times) or killing time between dinner and a show. I was there last night, checking the shelves for any winners that were worth buying at 50-70% off. The store is not so barren, but the selection is not that great. It’s nothing compared to what it was. The check out line was nearly a half hour wait. I didn’t find anything worth waiting that long for.

The funny thing is, for all the time I’ve spent in Borders, the amount of money I spent was minuscule in comparison. The reasons are all the reasons Borders went out of business. Even during the early days of their store closing clearance sales, the 30% off books were still cheaper on Amazon. I don’t have an e-reader though–I’m still clinging on to my dead trees. I did still shop there. I bought books, gifts, journals and music (back in the day). The last CD I ever bought I purchased at my local Borders.

Now that the store is a few weeks from no longer existing and as I remove my Borders Reward card from my keychain and this grieving period final ends, I’d like to remember the few things I will really miss about Borders.

The Magazine Racks Both for just browsing and also because, depending on the location, they actually had some of the more popular and widely distributed literary and science fiction magazines. I will miss that convenience.

Paperchase Journals I discovered them in college and have used them exclusively for my writing ever since. Unfortunately they were always sold out before I could get to any of the Border stores that were closing, so I had no change to stock up. I haven’t been able to find them anywhere else in the US (they’re a UK based company) but I hope to find them soon because I don’t know what to do with myself.

Taking Pictures with my Cellphone of Books I’m Interested in Reading but Cannot Afford to Buy at Borders Sorry. I still discovered a lot of great books by browsing Border’s shelves. I still haven’t found a new bookstore in my area (I think the Borders we used to have here may have killed off or scared away the local competition).