“A Fond Farewell… Thank You for Shopping at Borders” – I wasn’t too surprised to see this message in my Inbox the other day. Truth be told, this break up has been a long time coming, and we haven’t seen each other in quite a while. But just like with any break up, you find yourself reflecting on the relationship and how it ended … and what that means for the future. There are the good times to remember – the days when my friends and I would want to kill some time before a movie or make a bookstore the main event of our evening (yes, we were cool). But there were the bad times too – the overpriced coffees and the guilty feeling one had after mom and pop shops went out of business, a la the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks classic, “You’ve Got Mail,” (which also featured former ISP giant AOL).
Now that most books are digital, I wonder if it’s possible to get the same level of exposure you’d have to writings outside of your normal sphere. When walking up and down the rows of books at Borders, or other major chains, I’d come across books I would have never thought of reading. Browsing was a joy, browsing was free, and highly encouraged by all of the little comfy nooks with chairs just asking for you to sit down, grab a book, and get “your read on.” Not so, online, where a few sample pages and a limited listing by genre await.
I also wonder what this means for already suffering newspapers and magazines. If I want to find a new magazine to read, I have to somehow hear about it and subscribe to it. Will libraries someday be obsolete too? I don’t think the digitalization of the world is a bad thing. Anyone will tell you how much I love downloading books on my phone. There’s also the possibility for publications to reach beyond normal markets and for new writers to emerge. I’m saddened by the end of this relationship … and yet I’m hopeful too.