Another button from my days in the bookstore.
Last night I had a very long and complicated dream about working at Borders. Usually when I dream about working at a bookstore, it’s Bookstop, and I generally have those dreams when I’m under a lot of stress.
This time, however, I know the dream is because I’ve been reading articles about the last few days of the final Borders stores. It seems to me both chains followed pretty much the same trajectory. They were begun by people who had a passion for books. The unique approaches each founder bought to the bookselling world resulted in fast and furious success. They expanded to their breaking point, then sold out to a larger corporate entity who wanted to cash in on their success. Regardless of how passionate the chains’ booksellers, customers, and local management were, from the top down the stores were driven by profit without regard to the products and services provided. They lost all the qualities and practices that made them a success to begin with.
And in time, they failed and shuttered their stores.
The cities and towns where they once existed have lost a place to discover new books and rediscover familiar writers, meet authors at book signings, enjoy a community where a cup of coffee can be read over a newspaper or magazine, find knowledgable people who can help answer that plaintive question Can you tell me something good to read?, join readers’ groups for lively discussions, hook up a laptop and do some work in what many people (including me) feel is one of the best settings in the world–surrounded by walls and shelves of books.
For now, we still have Barnes & Noble, a few smaller chains, independent stores, and our libraries. If we lose those, too, and all reading is dependent on devices, will we be returning to an age when only the privileged have access to learning? Where reading is a luxury denied to a majority of people whose lives consist of work and more work and the struggle to provide food, clothing, and healthcare to their families? Where the newspapers are gone, and the magazines are gone, and maybe some entity just a little crazy and greedy and power mad can silence the fibers and air waves of our televisions, radios, computers, smart phones, and e-readers to keep us focused on whatever is needed to keep the crazy/greedy/power-mad at the top of the heap of humanity?
Maybe it was a stress dream after all…