Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Life Without Borders

Source of picture: azuo
"When a bookstore opens its doors, the rest of the world enters, too, the day’s weather and the day’s news, the streams of customers, and of course the boxes of books and the many other worlds they contain—books of facts and truths, books newly written and those first read centuries before, books of great relevance and of absolute banality. Standing in the middle of this confluence, I can’t help but feel the possibility of the universe unfolding a little, ‘once upon a time’.”- Lewis Buzbee, 'The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, A History'
I dropped by the Borders bookstore in Perth today. Books, magazines, stationery and assorted knick-knacks were 40% off. Naturally, a bookworm like me headed into the store with the intent of buying a birthday present for a friend but shamefully ended up walking away with a book for myself that I paid $15 for.* (In Australia, any book with a price stamp under $18 is a bargain. Haha.) The sad truth is that Borders has been in the process of closing down their outlets in Australia (and all over the world) following the filing of the company's bankruptcy in February. There are only 6 outlets left in Australia. Unfortunately, no company is willing to take over Borders. No company is willing to invest in books. Just one private equity firm in the process of cleaning up their assets.

For me, Borders has to be the most accessible store for any book, regardless of what country it originated from. There has never been a time where I couldn't find something I wanted. But people are finding the knowledge they want on the internet and understandably so. The internet was designed specifically for this purpose. It's easily accessible from your couch and I've never come across a person who has failed to find what they were looking for, through the internet. 

The closing down of Borders is just one of the many settings where printed books are becoming a thing of the past and, unfortunately, time and money are not dispensable for most people. But as I discovered today, some folks are continuing to go! I found myself in a right mess in Borders. Books were everywhere and it looked like a tornado had done severe damage to the compound. There were a couple of books lying around the store, but most of them were gone - many shelves were laid bare (which had saddened me because it meant that there was a slim chance of finding a book I truly liked). From what I can ascertain from the 'wreckage', is this. People still have a love for hard copy, printed books. (Either that, or they're cheap. But who says you can't be both?)

Downloading an e-book to your Kindle and Kobo is convenient. (I, myself, have recently jumped on the band wagon and am not going to criticize it). But nothing can truly replace the feel of being in a bookstore. I could easily lose myself in a bookstore for hours on end. In fact, I did so not long ago and came out with 4 great reads. And Lewis Buzbee was right. The possibility of the universe is quaintly held in pages and pages of text stored in a 2-storey compound. The assortment of people that pass through the doors at any given moment is a testament to those who are constantly thinking and fantasising for more than the world they are living in right now. I'm sorry to see you go, Borders. You've served me, and my fellow booklovers, well.

*Side note: The book I bought was Nicole Krauss 'The History of Love'. (No, not a soppy romance novel.)

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