I went to my favorite Borders today. It was packed. PACKED. There wasn't a parking space anywhere near the store. Inside, people were carrying baskets filled with books. The shelves are already looking bare. The checkout line was no less than 20 people deep. At one point, there were at least 40 people standing in line, all with stacks of books in their arms.
Where were these people when Borders needed them?
It wasn't like there are big savings yet. 10% on most books. Romance was 30% off. And business books were 20% off. So why were they all rushing to gobble up the books? I had some very interesting conversations.
The first conversation was with a woman in her 30's. She was buying every single one of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. I asked her if she had read them and she said yes, they were her favorite books. But she had over the years given her copies away to friends. And then she said she never thought that she might not be able to own them again. She asked if I had read them and I said no, but they were on my list of books I want (which is 11 pages deep). I was carrying it. She asked for recommendations of books I liked and I gave her some. Then she remarked on how she has a kindle and confided that she only downloads free books on it. She told me she prefers real books, but she's a struggling student with 2 dogs and a cat and money is tight. But she decided that it was more important to buy this series in paperback than buy groceries. We both lamented the loss of books. I ran into her later at the checkout. She had so many books - some I'd recommended that she thanked me for pointing her toward - and was excited to go home and sit down with a book.
The second person I talked to was a man in his late 30's or early 40's. He struck up a conversation asking me if I'd read a particular author. I hadn't. He asked if I liked sword play sci-fi and recommended a series that was his favorite. I told him I was more of a modern day with a twist dark urban fantasy kind of girl and he chuckled. Then we started discussing all the books we loved. We both agreed The Stand by Stephen King is probably the most epic good-vs-evil book we've ever read. He likened it to a bible. He said he liked epic end-of-world books, but had never found one that spooked him as much as The Stand. I recommended The Reapers are the Angels with a warning that its not a happy book. Then we discussed cyberwar urban fantasy. He recommended some older Orson Scott Card books that I'd never read. I think I'll end up buying them at some point. I showed him www.Wake, which he added to his stack.
I ended up showing him Devon Monk's Dead Iron and he decided it was worth reading and added it to his pile. His very pregnant wife and three children wandered over with their own stacks but when his wife realized he was geek talking with me about computer programming (by that point we'd gotten onto the subject of my son creating an engine to run a computer game on his android phone), she wandered away with a funny little smile.
This man told me he's a computer programmer and he loves technology, even owns an ereader, but that it makes him sad that books are disappearing. He said one of his favorite things to do is to take the books he's read to his mother's twice a year and trade them for the books she's read. With an ereader, he can no longer do that. He said the ereader is great, but he won't spend more than $5 on an ebook.
The last conversation was with the clerk, who sadly talked about the loss of her job which she loves. She knows me by sight as I do her - I'm in there at least once a week. She thanked me for doing my part to save their store. She said I was a loyal customer and they were grateful for people like me who truly love books. Then she remarked on the incredible number of people in the store and said she didn't recognize most of the people who had come in that day. She said what I'd been thinking - where had all these people been? Why was it so important now to buy all the books they wanted? Why did they wait until it was too late?
I feel cheated. Robbed of my joy - reading. Don't get me wrong. I'm a tech savvy geeky nerd of a girl. I love technology but not at the expense of books. I'll still read, but for me reading on an ereader just isn't the same. I'm a little ADD. I find I'm more distracted on my ereader. Plus, selecting a book? I can't remember what I was reading sometimes. At least with a real book, its sitting right on my chair. I just pick it up and dive in.
The general consensus of people in line is that Borders closing is armaggeddon. It's the apocalypse. It's devastating and a huge mistake. I want to open an indie bookstore. Right. F-ing. Now.
I bought $140 worth of books. I'm planning to buy more. Maybe I can buy enough books to last me until I'm 80....that's only another 31 years. Think it's possible?