IBJOpinion

LOU'S VIEWS: The closing of Borders ... read it and weep

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

The coffee smell dissipates. The signs drop from 25%-50% off to 40%-60% off. Shelves of books migrate from soon-to-be-closed-off sections to empty shelf space elsewhere, causing category labels to lose their meaning. Customers linger, wondering if a novel unworthy of their $24 might be worthy of $12. “Sold” signs appear on fixtures. “Everything must go.”

This is how it ends for Indianapolis’ only downtown full-service bookshop.

Sitting in the soon-to-be-gone chairs in the no-longer-brewing Borders café, I have mixed feelings about its demise. Part of that has to do with the fact that this Borders doesn’t feel like the Borders that moved in just a few years ago.

Taking up high-profile real estate in 2001 in what had been—for a brief, silly time—the J. Peterman/Paul Harris space, Borders was a welcome addition to center city life. As the chain expanded nationally, many markets complained about how such places were killing independent bookstores. But downtown Indy didn’t really have much to kill back then, except a ho-hum mall store and the specialized architectural bookshop.
 

A&E The finale for Borders’ downtown location is just days away. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Borders didn’t just bring to town a large selection of books. It brought the promise of a lifestyle center. Back then, each store had its own marketing and promotions person, committed to keeping the place hopping with activity. Remember bookstore events, author signings and concerts? Carrie Newcomer playing on the north side. Rhett Miller on the inside staircase downtown. Midnight Harry Potter parties. It was difficult to complain about a chain when it brought something new and exciting.

Soon, though, those store promoters were thinned out. One for each store became one for the area, then those were winnowed to one for the multistate region. For the last few years, Borders seemed to give up on its extracurricular activities, instead focusing on pushing coffee and discounted best-sellers. As such, it seemed to become a quieter, far less dynamic place—a place easily toppled by the combination of cheaper, online booksellers and more ubiquitous java joints.

But, no question, something is lost.
 

A&E Closure means Borders blowout. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

A digression: Through most of my young life, my hometown didn’t have a bookstore. In that void, I created a de facto one by discovering my own route of drugstores, five-and-dimes, and anywhere else that each had a rack or two of paperbacks.

I bought many more books then than I do now. Part of that has to do with the feeling that, if I didn’t buy it when I saw it, I might never have a chance to find it again. In a pre-Internet world, you didn’t let your literary prey escape when you had it in sight.

Like a lot of readers, my purchasing patterns have changed over the years. These days, I’m much more likely to buy something found in the $1 section of Half-Price Books than I am to pick up a new fiction title in a traditional bookstore. Over the holidays this year, I made frequent shopping trips to the downtown Borders. But that’s only because my e-mail in-box seemed to have a steady stream of 40-percent-off coupons. Making one purchase at a time, I covered a lot of gift-giving ground. But I surely didn’t help Borders’ bottom line.

As someone who writes books as part of his living, my own behavior appalls me. If I won’t buy books, who will?

Of course, I know there are readers out there who still appreciate time spent with a good—or even a good-enough—book. As a writer and as a reader, I’m not giving up on the printed word, captured between covers (or, for some, on the electronic readers that I’m still resisting). Tonight, in fact, I’ll continue work on my next book—but not until after I stop back at Borders to see if the prices have dropped again.•

__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com. Twitter: IBJArts and follow Lou Harry’s A&E blog at www.ibj.com/arts.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Now if he'd just stay there...

  2. Daniel - what about the many US citizens who do NOT follow what the Bible teaches? The Hindus, Jews, Muslims and others who are all American citizens entitled to all rights as Americans?? This issue has NOTHING to do with "What the Bible says..." Keep all Churches separate from State! Pence's ongoing idiocy continues to make Indiana look like a backwards, homophobic state in the eyes of our nation. Can't we move on to bigger issues - like educating our kids?

  3. 1. IBJ should link to the referenced report. We are in the age of electronic media...not sharing information is lazy. Here is a link http://www.in.gov/gov/files/Blue_Ribbon_Panel_Report_July_9_2014.pdf 2. The article should provide more clarity about the make-up of this panel. The commenters are making this item out to be partisan, it does not appear the panel is partisan. Here is a list of the panel which appears to be balanced with different SME to add different perspectives http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?view=EventDetails&eventidn=138116?formation_id=189603 3. It suggests a by-pass, I do not see where this report suggests another "loop". 4. Henry, based on your kneejerk reaction, we would be better off if you moved to another state unless your post was meant as sarcasm in which case I say Well Done. 5. The article and report actually indicates need to improve rail and port infrastructure in direct contradiction to Shayla commentary. Specifically, recommendation is to consider passenger rail projects... 6. People have a voice with their elected officials. These are suggestions and do not represent "crony capitalism", etc. The report needs to be analyzed and the legislature can decide on priorities and spending. Don't like it, then vote in a new legislature but quit artificially creating issues where there are none! People need to sift through the politics and provide constructive criticism to the process rather than making uninformed comments in a public forum based on misinformation. IBJ should work harder to correct the record in these forums when blatant errors or misrepresentations are made.

  4. Joe ... Marriage is defined in the Bible ... it is mentioned in the Bible often. Marriage is not mentioned once in the US or Indiana Constitution ...

  5. Daniel - Educate me please: what does the Bible have to do with laws? If the government wasn't in the business of marriage to begin with, then it wouldn't have to "define" marriage at all. Marriage could be left as a personal, religious, or otherwise unregulated action, with no ties to taxes, legal status, etc. Then people could marry whomever they want, and all this silliness would go away. Remember to vote Libertarian in November.

ADVERTISEMENT