Closing borders

Here’s a nice little piece about the closing of Borders bookshop. I confess I’m in the same guilty boat of reading far more books than I paid for in Borders over the years. It’s always, always cheaper to get your books online or secondhand, but if you just want to hang out in a bookish atmosphere, (especially when you find yourself in a busy shopping mall with a rising sense of hysterical misanthropy), Borders is best. Indeed, it’s the place to be, if not the place to buy. Unfortunately that’s not a sustainable ‘business model.’

Retailers can complain all they want about business moving across (actual) borders and online, but let’s face it, that’s the way the great human herd is migrating. Same with music. ‘The artist formerly known as’ can storm and hiss about the digital music economy, but ultimately it’s the artists who really change, who morph their business model, that survive: to wit, Radiohead. Retailers have to go where desire is, and for now that’s online. But what about the unmet desire for a place to meet with books? I think it’s time for the public library to morph.

Sense and Sensuousness

With the advent of digital books and reading devices, many avid readers lamented the loss of the sensuous pleasures of reading: the bowed boards of old hardcovers; the feel of aging paper between the fingers; their fragrance of ruin. (For a lovely description of these effects, see the first paragraph of AS Byatt’s Possession.) These are indeed lost, or at least replaced with a new pleasure: the sleekness of plastic and the gentle clack of tiny keys. In some ways the loss is grievous and irretrievable, but in others, it is a virtue. If, like me, you’re seduced by the covers of new books – by their design and texture, the éclat they acquire from media exposure – the e-reader imposes some much-needed rigour to the reading diet. I’m not remotely tempted to download new and fashionable books on the strength of their glossy finish. Whereas, unleashed in Borders, I could easily spend a small fortune on books that will forever unfinished adorn my coffee table.