Sunday, July 24, 2011

Picking The Bones Clean

After I attend RWA, it always takes me a couple of months to set foot in a bookstore again.  Conference tends to be an orgy of booky-goodness, and believe it or not - I tend to hit my saturation point.  Couple that with my normal state of TBR Anxiety, and it's pretty easy for me to stay out of a bookstore for a little while.

But with the news that Borders is closing for good, and the fact that I still needed to buy Collide by Megan Hart - I decided to hit the now closest, but not for long, Borders, the next town over.

I want to make this clear.  I went on Saturday afternoon.  The Going Out Of Business signs were hung on Friday.  People, the place looked like a cloud of locusts had rolled into town, and set up camp over the building.  It was chaos.  Romance novels in the mystery section.  Biographies in the romance section.  People had just swooped in like carpetbaggers, randomly picked up stuff, and then just as randomly set it down wherever the hell they saw fit (and by people - I mean shoppers, not employees).

I'll be honest, it was depressing.  Really, really depressing.  The Borders that used to exist around the corner from where I live, was one of the stores that was closed during the first wave.  It took a couple of weeks for that store to get in this state.  Now that the whole company is almost done circling the drain?  Yeah, 24 hours to look like something the cat dragged in. That tiny, orderly part of my librarian brain was screaming inside.  My skin started to itch.

I wish I had bribed My Man to come with me, if only to hold a spot in the checkout line while I took my time browsing.  I spent 30 minutes, just standing in line to hand over my credit card.  Now given the sheer volume of people there, and the 6 cashiers they had working?  30 minutes of me waiting is actually fairly impressive.  They were moving things along.

Still, I was a bit of a curmudgeon.  I know I was there, just like everyone else, picking the flesh off the dead carcass, but it's always sad to see the locusts descend after the fact.  After the business is kaput and no amount of consumer money throwing around is going to save it.  Plus just looking at my TBR pile should tell anyone that it wasn't my fault that Borders went under.

It's....depressing.  Because at the end of the day, as much as I think the Internet is awesome-sauce, as great and convenient as I think ebooks are, I'll be brutally honest: Nothing, absolutely nothing in the digital universe, has been able to duplicate that Browsing Experience for me.  That feeling of walking into any bookstore or library, seeing actual physical "stuff" on the shelves, and running my fingers over spine labels as my eyes skim across book titles.

If you can live without this, I say bully for you.  For me though, that browsing flips a big ol' nostalgia switch for me.  It's how I fell in love with reading.  When I got old enough, my Mom would let me ride my bike to the local public library.  Once there, I had no idea what I was looking for half the time.  I would just go to the general fiction stacks and let my fingers do the walking.  People, this is how I started reading Mary Higgins Clark, Marcia Muller, Barbara Michaels, Sue Grafton, Lilian Jackson Braun, and Nancy Drew.  I generally did not get book recommendations.  I browsed.  I tried stuff.  If I liked it?  Great.  If I didn't?  Back to the drawing board.  This is certainly a more hit or miss method to finding a "good" read - but you know what?  It's certainly adventurous.  And now I have one less outlet for my adventurous side.  Because once I got actual disposable income?  I did a big chunk of my browsing in bookstores.


Someone pass the cheese to go with my whine.


nath said...

It sure sounds depressing, Wendy :( I'm so sad to hear that Borders is closing its doors for good :( I still don't get it... but I guess that's life.

I have to admit it's been so long since I just browsed. Sigh. Lately, it's been go in, grab, pay and go out ^_^; I should go tour my bookstore.. just for the fun of it :)

A Library Girl said...

We don't have a Borders anywhere near where I live, so I don't have to watch as its bones are rapidly picked clean, although your experience reminds me of other stores that have gone out of business in our area. It's sad to watch.

As far as physical shelf browsing goes: I was also a big physical shelf browser growing up. I didn't know too many people who enjoyed the same kind of books I did, so I just picked whatever looked good whenever my mom took me and my sister to the library. Since it didn't cost us anything, I didn't have to worry about what I took, so I could indulge whatever my obsession of the moment happened to be.

Those experiences made me the reader I am today, but I don't really do as much physical browsing any more. I work at an academic library, and we don't exactly collect much in the way of recreational reading. The local public library isn't exactly stellar, and when I go to the one big entertainment store in town I usually spend time in the manga area, looking for decent used stuff. I now mostly find out about good books via others' blogs and the research I do for my own blog.

I have a feeling that, for a lot of adult readers right now, their love of reading began with lots of physical shelf browsing. I wonder how kids and teens are finding out about stuff now? Do the browsing options available online work for them like physical shelf browsing worked for me when I was younger, or is all of that a poor replacement for physical shelf browing for them, too? Are we losing potential big readers every time a physical shelf browsing option is lost?

Kelly in Hockeytown said...

I was at my Borders on Friday and I have shopped there for as long as it has been there. It was previously a Waldenbooks. The assistant manager who waited on me has known me (by sight) for years and she actually told me "thank you for shopping with us and being such a great customer" she also said she couldn't look at me or she'd start bawling which literally brought tears to my eyes. I have yet to embrace the ebook phenomenon due to the fact that I too am a browser. I LOVE bookstores. I am not fond of either of the B & N in my area. Both of which are about 20-30 minutes away from where I live. I will miss Borders more than I can say.

Lori said...

Your shopping experience does sound depressing. I don't have a Borders anywhere near me so I won't be joining in the shopping, but I'm sad that yet another bookstore is gone. I feel the same way about browsing that you do---nothing else can replace that experience for me and I'm sad that it's now becoming so difficult to come by.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Physical browsing. I'm spatial. I'm tactile. I'm 3-D. That's how I experience my world. I have 5 senses. Physical books get me excited. I browse and spent big money.

~Kris Kennedy
(So glad you allow anon comments, Wendy. I get sick of signing in and having Google know where I am & what I'm doing)

Kristie (J) said...

It's so sad to see a book store closing. They have closed a number around me and while I still have a Chapters near where I live, there's that one less voice we hear from.
And I think of all the employees losing their jobs, and the authors this must affect and it makes me even sader

SonomaLass said...

I have reward points to spend, but I just couldn't face my Borders this weekend. That is MY bookstore. Our local independent stores range from ignorant to snobby about romance fiction, but Borders had a huge section, and the employees were always interested in what I was buying and what I recommended. I'm going to miss it.

Leslie said...

I didn't want to go to our Borders for the very reasons you've stated. The atmosphere would simply depress me.

I too love browsing. Seeing some of the beautiful covers on my reader doesn't compare to seeing them in person.

Anonymous said...

No cheese for me, thank you. I'll stick with the whine!

I know exactly what you mean. I've avoided going in to my one remaining Borders store because I didn't want to see it in that kind of condition. I helped open the first Borders in Arizona and went on to work for them for almost 10 years so I'm heartbroken. No other bookstore, at least in AZ, has the depth of selection or the knowledgeable booksellers. I don't even want to think about how the bigwigs are going to have their golden parachutes while most of their employees are going to be screwed. It just frosts my cookies!

I might do some research online in order to find books I want to read - but buy books online or read them in an e-reader? Oh hell no! I want to hold them in my hands, smell the pages, and read the first chapter before I commit! Unfortunately B&N is just horrible here, and while I love my library, they just don't have a huge selection.


little alys said...

Oh yes, from the moment I heard the rumons early on, I kept hoping that it would not go down this path. No matter how much I expected it, this closure of Borders still hit me hard.

I think I've been whining and half crying since the notice Friday. As great as ebooks are...there is something spectacular about walking in the bookstore, books after books. You get to meet people with similar interests you might not otherwises have ever known, you pick up a book randomly and it turns out to be completely mindblowing you never would have even glanced at.

Today, I finally went to the local Borders and it was packed. So sad people didn't do this before because if you had the free membership, your normal discounts would have been awesome.

I only walked away with three books. Will probably go back tomorrow for more. Sadly, I go back to my piles of books and weep at the loss.

JamiSings said...

I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand I HATED the Boarders that used to be here in Costa Mesa. (It's now a Mother's Market.) The employees were incredibly snooty and rude. I once asked for Michael Crawford's autobiography and they tore into me about how "We don't carry biographies!" and proceeded to tell me some fancy-shmancy section where his autobiography was kept.

Plus I was pretty ticked they tore down the Mesa theater instead of turning it into a historic site like it should have been to build Boarders. Triangle Square was enough of a mistake.

On the other hand the Boarders out in Rancho Mirage - nicest people ever! Maybe it's the more laid back living with all those spas and stuff, but I loved going there. I used to spend tons of time going through their CDs - while I was always disappointed that I had to go online to get the Mel Tormé or Sammy Davis Jr ones - they still had great sections for Glenn Miller, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. So I'm sad that one will no longer be part of what I do when I'm vacationing in Palm Springs.

For the record though - I still miss Crown Books! (And FedCo, Woolworths, Robinson's May....)

Marguerite Kaye said...

When Borders first opened in Glasgow, it changed my brwosing experience forever. It was the first bookstore in town with a coffee shop, and with all those fabulous ideas tables on the ground floor, and the first bookstore to have books and music and magazines all in the same place (I know, but in Scotland we're a bit behind the States that way).

I got loads and loads and loads of books from those tables that I'd never have picked off the shelves, and I spent many, many happy hours with them in the cafe. When they closed down a couple of years ago, I did go along, and it was exactly as you described. Clouds of locusts, books in chaos, and really, seriously, deeply depressing. I came away with one cookbook and a big grey cloud.

Where I live in the sticks now, we have one tiny bookstore, so I have to get most of my reading on-line unless I'm going up to the big city. It means I don't browse, I log on to buy something I know I'm going to buy, if you know what I mean, and I miss that. Lots.

Thank goodness for the internet, but it will never replace a good bookstore.

Magdalen said...

Wendy -- I'm sympathetic because I'm already there and have been for four years or more. I used to love browsing until, believe it or not, the Internet. Oh, and before I moved to a spot so remote that the nearest library is 20 minutes' drive away *AND* they have no romances beyond Nora Roberts.

But even before then, the romance aisles in big box stores seemed so out of touch with what people were buzzing about online that it was almost as if there were two spheres of romance that barely touched.

I've adapted, but it has meant I lost the nostalgia for the days when 20 minutes in a bookstore would automatically result in a sale.

Hannah said...

I'm not going to any Borders stores. It would also depress me to see the chaos in the store. Also the two Borders that were closest to me closed years ago. So I think to myself "you brought this upon yourself, Borders, by closing the only stores that were convenient for me" as if my business would have saved them. Anyhow, growing up I loved browsing in the library, especially in the small town where I lived until the age of 14 (after which I moved to a bigger town with a mall with Waldenbooks, larger library, and a couple indie bookstores). There were no bookstores except a paperback exchange that my friend's mom ran for a while where I bought and traded in a lot of romances. So the library was really where it was at for browsing.

Joy said...

There is nothing like a well stocked bookstore. My public library is GREAT and I love to browse there, BUT... In a bookstore you get to see LOTS of new books, you get to see lots of travel guides to whereever and not just the ones that haven't been checked out. You get to browse, read a bit from the middle, check the listing for restaurants in XYZ to see if they list that great restaurant you found last year. So sorry to see so many of them close. It isn't always online buying that is killing bookstores. In Borders they guessed their future would be made by having lots of CDs, DVDs, odds and ends. They spent much too much time and attention on that and not on books and selling them. The whole upstairs of my local Borders was a VERY small children's section and CDs, DVDs, etc.

Holly said...

I'm so sad about Borders. I'm not a fan of B&N in general, and my local store is a complete joke. The employees don't know jack and their romance selection is tiny. It depresses me even going in there. Borders was the only *good* place to shop.

I'm avoiding mine for now, though I'm sure I'll break down and visit this week to see what's leftover.

Carrie said...

I love browsing. Since our local Blockbuster closed last year I've only watched a handful of movies. I can't stand to go online and search Netflix, so I rarely bother unless someone recommends a movie. Since my local Borders closed, I've bought fewer books. I've been on a used book store buying spree once, ordered a few auto-buys online, and bought a few ebooks, but mostly I simply miss my twice a week trips to Borders and the fun of browsing.

Wendy said...

All these thoughtful comments that I'm late responding to - so I'm going to be lazy and just throw out a general "thanks everybody!"

I think another big reason Borders closing is depressing me is because outside of an awesome-sauce used bookstore in my hometown in Michigan - when I first discovered the genre, a Waldenbooks at the mall was my sanctuary. To this day? BEST romance friendly new bookstore I've ever set foot in. Great selection, great staff - just amazing. I still think Borders made a big mistake folding a lot of those little mall outlets. They were a real haven for a lot of romance readers who were (sadly) used to receiving scorn from independents and some of the big box outlets.


PK the Bookeemonster said...

Sadly,Borders didn't look at the trends. They outsourced their internet sales to Amazon early on. They didn't develop an e-reader.
I had heard the discounts weren't that great yet so I haven't gone. I probably shouldn't go because I have sooo much to read already.
Browsing -- I enjoyed browsing before I became too knowledgeable, if that makes any sense. Over the years I have become familiar with a LOT of crime fiction authors and know what I like and now with my newsletter Premeditated I always know a month ahead the 50 to 100 new releases coming out.

Jami Davenport said...

I can't even bear to go near my Borders. I'm feeling guilty and somewhat responsible. I used to visit there twice a week or more until I bought my Nook. I've probably been there twice in the past year. I hate to see this happen. They were so romance friendly.