Thursday, September 8, 2011

The End of Books?

Today is the last day that my local Borders will be open, and yesterday I decided to pay it a visit. Bookstores in general have always felt like an outer extension of my mind - the books, the music, the atmosphere. Bookstores are some of the few places where I can really hear myself think, and yet at the same time I can feel the presence of all those better thoughts, penned by wiser people. It inspires me.

But this was not the place I saw last night.

The place I saw last night was skeletal, dying, dead.

The bare bones of floor to ceiling bookshelves that used to always move with the flow of the room and my train of thought sat naked with nothing but the adornments of packing tape and sale stickers. The few books still for sale, less than 50 total, haphazardly stacked onto a few tables and clearanced beyond belief. I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for the words in these books that, after an 80% discount, people were still so reluctant to read. If no one will read them now, when will they ever? I can't help but imagine myself in five years - experiencing all the excitement and hopefulness of publishing a book, only to find it filling the discount bins two months later.

If print books even exist in five years, that is.

It's all I can stand to see one of my favorite shops in this state, when workers come in and start ripping off baseboards, taking doors off the hinges, and adjusting sale signs. It's hard to see Border's like this - controlled by the all important dollar. Then again, it controls all of us. In the weeks after the closing sales started, the stores were filled with discount shoppers, sweeping in to take advantage of their misfortune. I was there. And you were there. And now, the building sits with a few unwanted books and a mother who wont let her son by a $3.00 book with his own money because, "books aren't worth money unless they're really special", while a new bar waits for it's turn to move in.

Say what you want about me, or borders, but books are something else. Books are people. The way they wish they were, the way the used to be, the way they fear, the way the love. And losing them is like losing a million lifetimes.

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