R.I.P. Borders

6a00e55379a9748834014e8a0dcbf9970dGiven how insanely popular the e-reader has become, I should’ve known this day was coming—and fast…

But when I heard that Borders was closing all its remaining stores, I was still sad and rather bummed out all the same.

Naturally, my petty gripes about missing a bookstore pale in comparison to the 10,000+ people who lost their jobs as a result. While I’m mourning the loss of a place where I read, drank coffee and played the occasional game of Scrabble with my favorite people on the planet, I can only imagine how devestated they are and hope that everyone will find a new gig that’ll pay the bills—pronto.

I guess the reason I’ve always loved Borders so much is that I have a bazillion memories there. Back when I was covering the police beat (and whatever else my editors dreamed up) as an intern for the Leader-Telegram in Eau Claire, Wis., it was my post-work watering hole of choice.

While my peers probably opted for something much, much cooler like mojitos after a long day at the office, iced caramel lattes were my poison of choice. And considering that the coffee bar was conveniently located next to practically every magazine known to mankind, well, it was the perfect entertainment option for a cash-strapped college girl.

As a bonus, when you’d already read Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone and flipped through the current issues of People and In Style, there were still more than enough actual books to keep you mesmerized for months. It’s during this juncture  that I finally discovered the wonders of Austen (better late than never, right?), read countless travel books from cover to cover (and started planning my future itineraries) and caught up on a few of the classics I’d missed in high school.

A couple of years later when I finally decided that newspaper reporting wasn’t for me and moved to Nashville in hopes of covering music for a living, Borders was there for me again when I was new in town and needed something to do on a Friday night. Now to be totally honest, I was an equal opportunity bookstore lover and wasn’t afraid to step into a Barnes & Noble either (it was my only chance to sip some Starbucks back in 1998, after all), but Borders was still a regular part of my social life.

Fast forward almost a decade, and Borders also played a key role in one of the happiest nights of my life, namely my first-ever book signing back in Eau Claire for Around the World in 80 Dates. When I walked in those familar doors this time around, howver, the store manager told me the coffee was on the house, and the books on the endcaps were (gasp!) mine. Even as I think about that night now, I can still remember how thoroughly elated I was. And as I read my sample passages to the audience filled with family members, friends and former teachers, I never imagined there would be a day when Borders would be no more.

If anything, it’s a reminder that life is always changing. Back when CDs were being phased out and my beloved record shops were closing, I resisted getting an iPod for a long, long time. Now I’m a bonafide downloading convert.

Will the same eventually happen with books? Well, I can never  imagine preferring virtual pages to the feel of an actual book in my hands, but I guess I should probably never say never. After all, a world with stories is always better than a world without. But a world without bookstores anchoring the malls I frequent is still a sad, sad place.

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