Please Read Responsibily

I stood in line for over an hour with my arms full of books before thinking of how bittersweet that moment was. Sure, I was adding six or seven books to my collection at a discounted price, but I was standing in the middle of another Borders that was soon to be no more. Over the past six years, Borders has closed nearly 1000 locations and filed for bankruptcy last month because they simply can’t compete with online retailers and the growing e-book phenomenon.

I’ve spent countless hours perusing the shelves at Borders through the years looking for titles (old and new) to add to my library, so the deep discounted prices only mildly soothed the pain of the “Store Closing” signs posted in the windows of the store. I’ve lost myself in many a book while sitting in one of those comfy seats back in the History section, being late or missing class, blowing off dates or just disappearing from the rest of the world for a few hours. I don’t know anyone whose job is affected by the closures, but the bookstore is an institution for many people like myself and Borders’ bankruptcy can have ramifications in a few different areas.

First, the closing of large chain bookstores may actually spark an interest in the niche bookstore, reigniting the small business owner. Coming up, specialty bookstores were commonplace in many neighborhoods, offering a personal touch to your reading experience. However, as the large booksellers expanded, these stores were squeezed out. Ironic isn’t it? Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks and Borders drove the nook bookstores out of the communities and the internet’s forcing them into bankruptcy.

This is the perfect time for book lovers and entrepreneurs to bring small bookstores back to the communities, especially those that specialize in specific literature. Or is it? The e-reader phenomenon, sparked by products from Apple and Amazon, has turned reading into the ultimate digital convenience and punctured the sales of physical books. However, there are loyalists to literature like myself that just love the feel of holding a book and turning pages, that may never convert to the digital darkside and join the millions that pledge allegiance to their digital readers. The question is, are there enough of loyalists out there for the specialized bookstore to make a comeback?

Bookstores and libraries are closing at alarming rates, with little to none fanfare in urban communities, reducing access to information that exposes readers to worlds beyond their own and assisting in their navigation of the world in which they exist. I find it interesting that a country with such a wide wealth gap is moving towards technology that can widen the chasm in reading across race and class, recreationally and educationally, leaving those without the resources behind. We know who this affects most and though we tend to spend way above our means, it seems like reading is devalued in our community and I don’t expect that to change in the near future. As a result, more iPods than iPads will pop up in the hood and test scores will continue to decrease in those areas. So until there’s a paradigm shift in the community regarding responsible reading and parents take a more active role in their children’s education, bookstore and library closures will be ignored and the centuries of knowledge and magic trapped within the spines of those books will be exclusive to those that choose to seek it.