Blame Me

Monday, February 21, 2011

Borders announced last week that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is closing about one-third of its stores, including the one where my writers' critique group meets.

Not that finding a new location is a novel experience for us: we seem to move approximately once a year as conditions at our host location change. And no, we haven't put them all out of business.

More and more brick and mortar bookstores are closing their doors. Part of it is the economy, but part is a change in reading and purchasing habits. I don't mean that people are reading less, because that isn't my experience. But we are reading and purchasing reading materials in ways that make brick and mortar bookstores unnecessary as places to buy books.

And I'm one of the culprits.

If I'm at Borders for my writers' group, I'll spend money there. Otherwise, I do my shopping online where the selection is better and whatever I'm looking for is rarely out of stock. With the "look inside" feature, I can even read the back cover copy and look at the first chapter to get a feel for the writer's style.

I'm also one of the growing number of people who read e-books. I asked for and received a Kindle as a retirement present, and I love it. (Thank you, NFA gang.) Yes, I still read some paperbacks and hardcover books, but my bookshelves are already packed beyond their capacity. Besides, you can only take so many physical books on an airplane and still have room for toothpaste.

Although I'm sorry for the people who are losing their jobs, I don't mind not having brick and mortar stores as a place to buy books. I don't need them for that. But I am sad that there will be fewer places for readers and writers to congregate to talk about their passion for words. Words that inform. Words that create emotions. Words that, when strung together, tell a story. The passion won't lessen, but the opportunities for face-to-face discussion might.

And that would be a tragedy.

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