Scavenging at Borders

While in the US recently, I passed by a Borders store in its final death throes, and stopped by to take a look. Everything was on sale, from the shelves to the ladders. The wi-fi was turned off, the coffee shop had been dismantled, the store computers weren’t working and the washrooms hadn’t been cleaned in… a while. But the books were discounted by 60%, so I grabbed a red basket and started  loading up. I mean, The Year of the Flood was six bucks!

So… I couldn’t do it; it felt fundamentally wrong to buy books from the store. I kept thinking of the ten thousand laid-off Borders employees,  and the air of misery at this outlet made me reluctant to acquire books from there.  I can recall the provenance of just about every book on my shelves, and I knew that each time I looked at these purchases, I’d associate them with the palpable unhappiness at that Borders. I’m aware my actions are at best sentimental and at worst idiotic, lacking any moral or ethical weight, but I put the books in my basket back on the shelving cart. So I didn’t buy The Year of the FloodThe Reluctant Fundamentalist, The Education of a British Protected Child, Solar, and Too Much Happiness, each of which was under six dollars.

I did, however, buy a jigsaw puzzle for my son, because he lay down on the floor  and dry heaved on seeing my empty book basket. I empathize, dude. And I bought  Howl: A Graphic Novel for my husband, who had managed my son for the hour I browsed around that store, which will no doubt have morphed into a Claire’s Accessories the next time I visit the United States.

(Image from Howl; see more images here.)

18 responses to “Scavenging at Borders

  1. I’m not sure how it happens when a big company like Borders goes into bankruptcy, but I’ve heard stories of smaller businesses going under and employees not getting paid. So I’ve been justified my buys in that maybe some part of it needs to go towards making sure an employee gets paid. I also feel like maybe it’s a good chance to help an author’s sales increase (especially since I can’t often afford new or hardback books to do so)-particularly a less well-known author that would then encourage the publishing company to publish them again.

    • Oh, absolutely! My weak-kneed reasons have nothing do with logic and everything to do with my own hangups:)
      Incidentally, I’ve heard that Borders sold their physical stock to a liquidation company, so I’m not sure how exactly sales for indiv. authors will be tracked. But I hope that the mid-listers, who seem to be getting squeezed hardest, do benefit at least a bit from the sale.

  2. Aww you’re much better than I – I bought a basketfull of books when I went through a Borders. I’m especially sad you put back an Achebe, I will have to lend you one to make up for it😉

  3. Interesting associations. infectious sentimentality. I hardly would have passed without a purchase.

  4. I’ll admit I did buy a couple of books from my local Borders’ going out of business sale, but the atmosphere was so icky I didn’t stay and browse for long. I’ve never been a huge fan of chain bookstores, preferring the independents, but any bookstore looking so shabby is sad.

    • The atmosphere WAS sad, wasn’t it? I happen to have an excellent indie store half a kilometer from my home, but sometimes I visit chains just because they’re more condusive to hanging out and buying nothing🙂

      • Ah, yes, well, can’t argue with you there! I’ve been known to browse at a chain store and then head over to my indie and, if they don’t have it, order it from them. Though that was before I moved…my current city’s big indie closed last year, just when I moved to town😦

  5. I did buy a few books (Photoshop-related), and Glen Duncan’s latest- but that was because I never see his work anywhere!
    I always had a love-hate with Borders; their constant hard sell at the register for their dubious “programs” was a big turn-off for me. In recent years they really lost the thread- with all sorts of non-book merchandise. Still, they were the best bookstore within 10 miles of my house, now there are none.

  6. I’m sorry to hear that–I hope a new bookstore miraculously opens up a few doors away. Preferrably one whose owner has a penchant for Duncanesque literature.

  7. I know how you feel because I can remember how and where I got just about every one of the many books I possess. I didn’t manage to get to the Borders in Glasgow or Dundee when they were closing down. Just as well, then I wasn’t tempted to splash out!

  8. I had to go back, Saturday was 90% off, I couldn’t resist- 4! Nobel prize winners (Kawabata, Müller, Pamuk, Laxness) a Joyce Carol Oates, a book about Joni Mitchell’s Blue period and other finds. I figured it was better that I got them directly rather than buying them through a middleman – there were people buying hundreds of books- many of the same title- so my guilt was mitigated a little, at least in my mind.

    • Ah, Laxness. You get a thousand goodwill points…
      The Borders I visited (in New York) didn’t have any bulk buyers–mostly single item purchasers. Photoframes and wrought iron candlestands were going fast; books, less so.

  9. I do not have a Borders near me but think I would feel much like you… a pillager in the time that a book store is dieing and fellow book loers have lost their jobs…. and well….
    yeah

  10. Glad to hear I’m not the only (senti)mental person around the blogosphere! thanks for commenting!

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