Thursday, February 17, 2011

Internet Killed the Brick-and-Mortar Bookstore

A lot of people have been posting about Borders' bankruptcy woes and the inevitable closing of many of its locations. I think that what has happened to Borders is unfortunate, but not because I feel sorry for Borders. Sure, I feel badly for those who will be out of a job, but I reserve the greater part of my sympathies for all of the individuals whose locally-owned bookstores were run out of business by Big Box retailers like Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million, and for all the people out there who are now left without any nearby bookstores.

I know that bookstores are going the way of the dodo anyway between's substantially lower price points and the rising popularity of e-readers (and I've certainly done my part in ensuring that, being a devoted member of Team E-Reader), but a nostalgic part of me can't help but feel sad about it. When I was growing up, visiting a bookstore was my favorite part of an otherwise soul-deadening trip to the mall with my mother. I could (and did, if I could get away with it) spend hours in those stores, flipping through books and admiring covers, wondering if I'd ever have enough time to read them all. I wasn't generally allowed to purchase any, though, because I would finish them too quickly and discard them (this is why much of my early reading material came from the library). I always looked forward to birthdays and Christmas because it meant I could finally buy books that I could keep, and my parents can both attest to the fact that I spent the vast majority of my birthday and Christmas money in those bookstores.

These days, I find myself rediscovering the joys of the library. This is partly because my current financial situation doesn't leave a lot of discretionary income for book-buying at Amazon's prices, much less the full sticker price they charge at brick-and-mortar stores (though I am still known to trawl Books-A-Million's sale section for cookbooks). The main reason I've largely abandoned buying books is that I have finally admitted to myself that books are Stuff. I consider myself something of an anti-hoarder. I'm constantly downsizing and getting rid of things, and my ever-expanding book collection of books I was only going to read once was really getting in the way of the realization of my minimalist aesthetic (also, the getting of my stuff out of my storage unit and my dad's basement). Much as I love reading, accumulating an insane amount of books that I'm not going to re-read and won't need as references in the future simply doesn't make sense.

From here on in, I'm checking books out of the library unless I know I'm going to read them more than once or will need them in the future. Most of my sociology-type books fall into this category (they're invaluable for winning internet arguments, after all), as do my cookbooks. And we all know you can't have enough of those. The only time I intend on purchasing books is if the library doesn't have them, and then, I'll be acquiring them in e-book format. Evidently, my commitment to not being overwhelmed with stuff outweighs my childhood love of going to bookstores. I'm mostly okay with that.

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