By Edward Nawotka
My daughter will miss Borders: for the past year, every Saturday morning following her ballet lessons we’ve driven to the local Borders to buy “Daddy’s pink newspaper” — the Financial Times — and a new children’s book for her.
Of course, trying to explain to her what happened to Borders would be pointless…I’ll just take her to the local Barnes & Noble instead.
At Barnes & Noble she likes to ride the escalators; at Borders it was the the well-worn five-foot tall stuffed giraffe. Week after week she hugged that giraffe. In fact, so many kids must have clutched at that giraffe, begging their parents to buy it for them as their moms dragged them away, that its legs eventually buckled, leaving it unable to stand. Would I be overstating the case to say that I have begun to see it as a sad, stuffed metaphor for the chain itself: something that once stood tall, was brought to its knees, and now lies on the floor, loved but unsellable at any price.
I would love to think that I had more options where I could take my daughter, but all of them entail a long, unpleasant drive through big city traffic. I live in Houston where there are just a handful of independent stores — some with tiny children’s book sections — and it often doesn’t feel worth the hassle when so much is available just “one-click” away.
Whether you appreciate the chains or not, large-scale new bookstores are becoming increasingly rare. You could see them as dinosaurs, doomed to extinction, but I prefer another analogy — the Space Shuttle. It was an immensely impressive and successful project while it lasted, but it has now come to the end of its lifespan. Private industry is moving in to fill the gaps in exploring space with the production of smaller, more agile craft. (Of course, in US bookselling, we have Barnes & Noble — which is like…what…the Soyuz? Perhaps not…)
Can we expect the same for the book business? Will smaller stores move in to fill the vacuum left by Borders? Will you miss it?