I was in my early twenties before I discovered Borders’, which then had been open for two or three years. The sensation when I first walked in was what I felt when I first visited the Library of Congress.
Overwhelming excitement, and despair. How could I ever possibly read all the books worth reading? You would need lifetimes to do it. Yet, here, at least, I could visit a sort of cathedral of the mind.
I remember how excited I was in my early thirties when Border’s opened its second store a stone’s throw from my first house in the Detroit suburbs. Another Borders, right here! I think I understood how people in Appalachia felt when the Tennessee Valley Authority brought them electricity, back in the nineteen-thirties.
I will soon be sixty, and before that, Borders will be gone. A last-ditch attempt to save the bookstores failed last week, when the creditors concluded they’d probably do better with just a straight liquidation than they might if the latest venture to save them failed.
There are all sorts of theories about why Borders couldn’t be saved. Some said e-readers, some said the Internet. Some say the stores expanded too fast and moved beyond their core competence of selling books. One man said he knew Borders would die the day he found himself buying skin moisturizer there.