Friday, December 17, 2010

The E-End of Borders on Michigan

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After I'd finished some Christmas shopping at Water Tower Place earlier this week, I walked across the street to the Borders on Michigan Avenue to say farewell. The store is closing, everything is on sale (except calendars, as I was secretly hoping) and there was quite a throng of people there. But there's always been quite a throng of people there. The closing of the Borders on Michigan is just another reminder of the huge zeitgeist shift in the book world. 

The Michigan Borders was, IMHO, their flagship store in Chicago. It was THE place to do a book signing.  All the celebrities signed their books there.  In fact, I seem to remember Al Gore did his book signing at the Michigan Borders on the same day I did my very first book signing. The only difference is, I was signing my book at the Borders on Clark and Diversey.

When I was at the store this week, the shelves had been pretty well picked over, and although I was tempted by a paperback history book on Riverview, the temptation went away when I saw it was still fifteen dollars on sale.  Of course I went downstairs to see if my novel, Wish Club, was still on the shelf. (It wasn't)  It reminded me of all the times growing up when I'd go to bookstores and imagine where my novels would be placed. (Right after Steinbeck!)  Seeing my book on a store shelf for the first time (at the Borders at Clark and Diversey) was weirdly anticlimactic. I didn't burst into tears like I thought I would.
   
I didn't buy any books that day. I have an iPad. My husband wants Santa to bring him a Kindle. I'd already spent way too much money at the American Girl Place across the street and the thought of carrying any heavy books back down Michigan Avenue seemed ridiculous, especially when I could just go home and download them. 
   
A friend of mine was lamenting the closing of all these bookstores.  "Where am I going to go to find out what to read? I love to check out the tables. Get recommendations from the booksellers. Then I go home and buy them on Amazon."   Really. She said this. And without any trace of irony.

I guess each of us, in our own way, is contributing to the change.

It's hard to imagine a future without tangible books. I look around my house at the crazily packed bookshelves in just about every single room and try to imagine a Star Trek-like version: sleek shelves that contain only one important keepsake tchotchke and maybe an electronic photo frame.   "At least you'll never spend half a day looking for a book again," my husband says, and I find some comfort in this.  But I didn't grow up imagining where in the electronic library my book spines would appear.  I love real books. I mean, I really love them. Perhaps unnaturally so.  I suppose there will always be print-on-demand for us dinosaurs that can't give up our paper books.  But I think when my next novel gets published, most probably as an e-book, those tears may finally come. .



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