When the last remaining Borders bookstore closed its doors in September of 2011, my mother and I were devastated. After their outsourcing of digital enterprises to Amazon and investing in CD and DVD stock, it became easy for the business world to foresee Borders’ imminent closure. However, it was a shock to my mother and I and many other oblivious consumers.
Yet, when one store closes, another one opens. In this case, Barnes & Noble, the dreaded competitor remained open and thriving through Borders’ collapse. In the midst of Borders’ decline, Barnes & Noble was making changes of [its] own. Through the development of [its] digital reader, the Nook, and increasing online inventory, Barnes & Noble was able to prepare for the technological shift in the book business.
Since the closing of our beloved bookstore, my mother and I have had to adapt. For a while, we boycotted Barnes & Noble, still blaming the stores’ competition for Borders’ downfall. Over time though, we came to love the only well-established chain bookstore left in our area.
What started as a love for books caused us to enter through enemy gates, gaining access to a larger selection and a more user-friendly book-buying experience.
Additionally, Barnes & Noble had various lounge areas, a cafe, a larger children’s corner, and the customer service to match. For a while it was difficult to get used to, but it wasn’t about the store itself. It was about the books.
My mother and I could and would often spend hours of our weekends scanning the systemized stacks for something to read. It was more organized than Borders, and as much as I hated to admit it, I was beginning to like Barnes & Noble better. The cafe and lounging amenities were also a factor in changing my opinion. It had the ability to provide a variety of different experiences and adapt to the needs of a consumer’s changing moods and motivations.
When I moved off to college in Philadelphia my first year, the Rittenhouse Barnes & Noble became my second home. Standing three stories tall, it most often served as my quiet place and my cafe workspace. On rare occasions, it was my paperback playground, where I would explore each floor via escalator.
It appealed to my sense of self and reminded me of my mother.
On the level of satisfaction, I understood why Barnes & Noble was succeeding. And I wanted them to succeed – partly because I enjoyed the store, mostly because I wanted books to continue to be bought.
We will now go out of our way to support Barnes & Noble. My mother and I have made our peace with Borders’ closing and became members at Barnes. In this “Amazon-infused industry” as Kurt Begalka of Northwest Herald calls it, it’s easy for consumers to get caught in the ease of online shopping and the comfort of their own home. Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a package? But when it comes to books, there’s something sacred in approaching the physical store, in climbing its stairs, walking its aisles, thumbing each spine, and leaving with a copy in hand.
Rest in Peace Borders Bookstore, 1971 – 2001
Long Live Barnes & Noble, 1873 – Forever