Whither Borders goeth, I wilt go

I’ve been reading and hearing rumors that Borders, the big bookstore chain, is in trouble.

The Street ran a big column yesterday about the possibility that the company is facing a bankruptcy filing. The article noted that the Wall Street Journal reported recently that one of its major suppliers (Rowman & Littlefield) has declared a halt to its shipment of books to Borders because it’s not sure about getting paid. If you ask me, that sounds really bad.

There’s been discussion about whether Barnes & Noble and Borders should merge. Last month, The Atlantic asked the question: brilliant or desperate? No one knows for sure if it’s really even likely.

All I know is that we here in Nashville just lost one of our biggest and most beloved bookstores, Davis-Kidd Booksellers. The store closed its doors for the last time last week, even though the parent company admitted that this particular store, located at The Mall at Green Hills, was profitable. All over the city, people lamented. They wailed and gnashed their teeth. I did, too. I loved that store. And now we could possibly lose another major bookstore, if things turn out to be really dire and Borders ends up going under.

(I’m knocking on wood here that that won’t happen. Maybe I should throw some salt over my shoulder, too. Or ward off the evil eye. Or something.)

The worst part is that I know that I’ve contributed to this trend. I buy most of my new books from Amazon. I can’t resist the lure of discounted books and free super-saver shipping. And I buy books frequently from a used bookstore called McKay’s. I love to browse at the Borders store down by Vanderbilt University, but the parking situation down there is so lousy that it’s easier to just stay home and order online. And while I bought a lot of stuff at Davis-Kidd, most of it was just that: stuff. I bought Robeez soft-soled shoes for my infant son, magazines for my freelance writing business, the occasional birthday present for my mother or mother-in-law. Every once in awhile, I’d pick up a couple of books from the bargain rack. Or I’d buy a children’s book that was impossible to find at the used bookstore. I almost never bought bestsellers or trade paperbacks. I even–this is the worst of all–sometimes browsed the store, wrote down titles of the books that interested me and then went home and ordered them at a discount from Amazon. Or (gulp) reserved them from the Nashville Public Library for free.

I know. I’m guilty. People like me who love books and love bookstores have unintentionally contributed to their demise.

My husband noted that there used to be a lot of small independent bookstores around, and there were even some smaller chains that had storefronts scattered around strip malls and shopping centers. These days, except for the occasional religious bookstore, that’s not really true anymore. Here in Nashville, we have a smattering of church-related bookstores, but there’s not much else. The local gay-and-lesbian bookstore OutLoud Books just announced that it will close soon, too, unless someone rescues it financially. Davis-Kidd is gone. We all seem to be looking for books in our stores–and then going online and buying them. Or downloading them to our Kindles and Nooks and iPads.

I wish this wasn’t happening. I can’t tell you how much I love to go wander around a bookstore and see what’s out there. I love to stumble upon a book that I might never have heard of. I love to see a card with a bookstore staff member’s recommendation and think that it sounds appealing to me. I love to find a new author just because his or her book was propped up on a display next to a book that I stopped to peruse. Even if companies like Bordes stay afloat, are we still going to have actual bricks-and-mortar stores that will foster that kind of serendipity?

But like I said, I know that I bear some of the responsibility. While I was at Borders today, spending a gift certificate that I received for Christmas, did I buy anything else? No. And I should have.

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About jenniferlarsonwrites

I'm a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee. I have a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a bachelor's degree in English from Rhodes College. I'm a born-and-bred Southerner who spent a few years in Southern California, a rabid baseball fan and a would-be grower of tomatoes. You can also visit me at LinkedIn or on Twitter at @JenniferLarson.
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