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.


Post a comment to this story

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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

  2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

  3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

  4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

  5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.