Home > Culture, Digital Life > Goodbye Borders- Mixed Feelings about the Death of the Book

Goodbye Borders- Mixed Feelings about the Death of the Book

Someday we’ll tell our grandkids that people used to read books that were comprised of paper, binding, a front cover and a back cover. Books you actually held and required you to physically turn the pages by hand.

I love the two remaining book cases I have in my apartment. They’re all sorted in categories; Biographies, Science Fiction, Politics, Science, the American Civil War, Baseball, Reference, even a section on Chess. I’ve read every one of them and I keep them because of the fond memories I had experiencing them. And they tell your guests something about who you are; what you care about, what interests you. It’s a peak into the soul, really.

I noticed the other day that with a few exceptions they’re all five years old or way older. I don’t really buy books anymore. They are now transmitted into my Kindle through thin air and appear magically seconds after I purchase them with hardly any effort at all. I can change the font sizes too, so my 54-year old eyes can comfortably read the print without strain. I can bookmark and make notes and highlight passages. And, yes, I can curl up with the Kindle on my couch just as I used to do with a real book.

So blame me for the closing of the local Borders book store. It was supremely sad. For a month they had their close-out sales. Each day, it seemed, the sales got bigger and bigger until by the end, the scavenged book cases had nothing left except the last thing anyone wanted to read. But you could buy it for 50 cents. And soon the store was empty and stripped bare, and today it sits vacant and barren and lonely-looking- a ghost of a retail space and yet another victim of the digital age.

Books take space and they’re heavy. If you move a lot, as I have, they’re a bit of a pain. And I’ve gotten rid of hundreds of them through the years so I have distilled the collection down to the bare basics of who I am and what I once read. I will always keep them, though. Because you could buy one case with one shelf and just put the Kindle on a stand- but it’s not the same effect.

And what of human history? A thousand years from now, after the great apocalypse that forever takes down the electrical grid; will anyone remember us without physical books? Will there be manuscripts and parchment from 100 A.D. but nothing from 2008 on? Will people think we just stopped reading and writing because without the electrical grid and wireless networks and credit cards- there’s no way to actually access the books of the early 21st century?

I wonder sometimes that if our entire existence ends up getting stored in some huge Digital Cloud designed by Apple- if we run the risk that someday no one will ever be able to ascertain that we even walked the earth. No connectivity-no history.

That’s the thing about clouds. They’re just vapor. Maybe we should keep a few real books around- just in case.

  1. Jim Howard
    September 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Robert,

    I’m totally with you on this. I have bookcases throughout the house filled with books that I will never part with – organized in much the same way. My oldes book is from the Scientific Library of the US Patent Office (not stolen) from 1892 on Dynamo-Electric Machinery – sort of the Apple Technology of the day.

    If you have not already done so, you should visit the Jefferson collection at the Library of Congress – South end of the building – amazing – and it represents only a small part of his original collection.

    Jim

  2. Denise
    September 16, 2011 at 2:18 am

    Robert,

    Have you ever read the essay, “Booklove” by Jerome Stern? It part he writes:
    “I love bookstores, a perfect madness of opportunity, a lavish feast eaten by walking up aisles, and as fast as my hand reaches out, I reveal books’ intimate innards, a doleful engraving of Charlotte Corday who murdered Marat, a drawing of the 1914 T-head Stutz Bearcat whose owners shouted at rivals, ‘There never was a car worser than the Mercer.’

    I sing these pleasures of white paper and black ink, of the small jab of the hard cover corner at the edge of my diaphragm, of the look of type, of the flip of a page, the sinful abandon of the turned down corner, the reckless possessiveness of my marginal scrawl, the cover picture—as much a part of the book as the contents itself, like Holden Caulfield his red cap turned backwards, staring away from us, at what we all thought we should become.”

    I’m terribly sad about Borders closing.

    Denise

  3. September 27, 2011 at 6:46 am

    I blame the coffee shops. Both Borders and B&N became lending libraries with so many people reading from the shelves while enjoying cups of coffee, spending so much time and so little money. At the moment I happen to be reading Fahrenheit 451 . . . .

  1. October 6, 2011 at 1:58 am

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