Books without Borders

After 40 years, it’s hard to believe Borders has gone out of business. Every memory I have of the place consists of me weaving in and out of the infamous 30-person register line while I attempt to find one of those cliché, high-school, “So important that every teacher in the tri-state area feels compelled to force this upon their students” books. You know the ones I’m talking about.

With lines that long, I would have never guessed that the book conglomerate was on its way to the grave. Then again, it makes sense what the media has been saying – bookstores, like Borders, just can’t keep up with the rise of the “Digital Age.” I guess we all knew this day would come, but are the gizmos and gadgets of this “new” age really worth the extinction of bound books?

So who’s to blame? Although there are other, much more guilty culprits in the murder of Borders (Yes, I’m referring to you, Amazon), this rant is dedicated to each book’s sketchy, significantly thinner twin – evilBooks (more commonly referred to as eBooks)! Ok, so maybe the “e” doesn’t stand for “evil,” but that doesn’t acquit them of their role in this national crime. Since their release, Kindles, Nooks, and iPads have been winning over the hearts and minds of readers everywhere. I mean, connecting to any wireless network and immediately having access to thousands of books for a cheaper price than their physical counterparts isn’t exactly a bad thing, I guess. As if common sense wasn’t enough, the fact that these eBooks are substantially more environmentally friendly should tug at every moral fiber in a person’s body. Yet for some, including myself, eBook readers cannot replace the experience of reading an actual book, no matter how efficient or green they may be.

But how much am I willing to pay for this ‘true’ book experience? Take eTextbooks for example. Although eBooks as a whole have been on the rise, a majority of students here at Bentley still wince at the thought of using online textbooks (http://blogs.bentley.edu/intheknow/). The reasons behind this campus-wide rejection usually range from the inability to highlight and take notes, to the fact that some people just can’t stand reading off of a digital screen. Even so, sales for these digital copies are beginning to grow because their price is too good to pass up. What eTextbooks don’t have in usability, they make up for in cost – which, for a run-of-the-mill college kid, is a major deciding factor. I even admit buying one here and there because not even my pride is worth paying quadruple the price for a book that will end up being used as a coaster.

So who actually buys eBook readers, anyways? As of right now, avid readers are probably the only people getting a good deal out of eBooks. If you enjoy consuming three to four books a month, this device will serve its purpose and make up for the initial cost in no time. On the other hand, if you’re like me, and just barely get through one book a month because your professor forces you to, this device will just end up collecting dust – not to mention becoming outdated.

The not-so-foreseeable future. These days, I like to tell myself that I will never buy an eBook because of the aforementioned reasons, but in reality, once eBook readers reach a reasonable price (aka. their hype is long gone), I feel even I will cave in. I understand the effect technology has on old traditions, but it’s one of those things that you can only resist for so long until you’re seen as just down-right stubborn. I mean, we have to give these eBook companies some credit – they are trying REALLY hard to mask their deficiencies.

Are they the last of a dying breed? So are retail bookstores, like Barnes and Noble, the last chapter in a once thriving business? Truthfully, I think so. But if it’s any consolation to the bound-book community out there (which I’m sure it isn’t), it seems bound literature isn’t the only media that is getting kicked to the wayside for digital copies. Video stores, such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, have been in the red since the start of Netflix and Videos-On-Demand, and eventually they too will join Borders in the heaven for nostalgic stores.

Either way, enjoy these last few years of bookstores. Before we know it, we’ll be teaching our grandchildren about our “archaic” forms of purchasing traditional media.

-Chris Brault

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6 Responses to Books without Borders

  1. I hate to see Borders go, too. Although I have contemplated buying a Kindle and understand their convenience, I cannot quite give up the thrill of leisurely browsing among bookshelves, exploring the cover art and back cover/front cover blurb and discovering a literary gem to take home. *sigh*

    • I definitely agree with you on that! I have an e-reader on my tablet, but I still enjoy the occasional adventure through Barnes & Noble in search of my next read. I think there’s a place for bookstores in the future — they just have to redefine themselves and their product. What do you think?
      -Tammie

      • I would agree. I am of the opinion that regular books will not go out of style completely, because there are too many of us who still enjoy having them. Bookstores of the future will need to cater to both the printed and the electronic markets and perhaps offer even better services than they do now to remain competitive.

      • Agreed! Besides which, books have become a part of the household landscape. They are subtle expressions of a family’s interests and aspirations. I also agree that future bookstores will need to change their product focus in the future and maybe even downsize. The properties that Barnes and Noble (and formerly Borders) owns isn’t just huge, it’s prime stuff. To be honest, as much as I love my large bookstores, they just don’t need that much room for a product that’s going digital. Have you invested in a Kindle?
        -Tammie

      • I am unable to get a Kindle right now but boy, would I love one. It would be so handy.

        Interesting that you mention that books are subtle expressions of a family’s interests and aspirations. We must be thinking alike, because I wrote something similar in my blog post today about how you can determine what the occupants of a home are like by checking out their bookcases! 🙂

  2. My dad just gave me his, and I have to say that I adore it! I had a tablet that I used as an eReader, but the experience of reading on a traditional e-ink Kindle is much more pleasant.

    I checked out your blog post, and I can’t speak for my co-workers here at the Bentley Writing Center, but my bookshelf is very telling of my interests and personality.

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