The Borders Books & Music in Princeton is closing, one of 17 across the country to close. Not to be a hypocrite, because I also feel psyched that I can finally afford to buy some of the hardbacks I've been holding off on (30-40% off, come on down), but ultimately it makes me feel so melancholy, seeing the books stacked higgledy piggledy, genres mixed, kids books and self help heaped together. The fixtures are for sale, shelves and displays I've perused over the years are banged up and ransacked as people pick through the remains of bestsellers, calendars and tons of Eclipse merchandise ordered, I assume, to coincide with the DVD that's about to come out, but that won't come to this Borders since they're not getting any new stock. By the way, you can buy Bella's engagement ring, a replica, I presume, for a song.
I love bookstores, not just the cute independent ones but these big chain ones too. Any book store that's a physical place where I can run my hands over paper, feel the heft of a book as I lift it, read back cover, front and back flaps, assess the cover design, look at the author photo, it all thrills me. Libraries are great, don't get me wrong. But they're marred by the fact that you have to give the book back. Bookstores are, obviously, about ownership and ownership of the physical presence of books is one of my few vices.
Books are everywhere in our house. In places they don't really belong, the bathroom, the kitchen, on the steps, in the entry way, in the TV room, screen room, garage. Any place I might need to stop, pick up a book and read a few pages - like on my way to take out the garbage. I don't even have to open the book for it to say something to me. Sometimes it's "everyone has told you I'm an awesome book, when will you read me?" other books say "you read me whenever you're feeling wistful and its raining, don't you?" Books are the nearest thing I can think of to sentient objects because they contain possibilities.
I'm not a luddite, but when I hear the chatter about e-books vs. books, positioned like a David and Goliath-sized mano a mano combat, I don't just get it. An e-reader, and the e-books you read on them, seem flat to me. They don't have the space for me to get lost in.
Nathan Bransford, on his blog, recently had a poll on the coming domination of e-books - the results show that people are more welcoming of e-books, but still prefer books. For now.
But I have to echo what Patti Smith said when she won her National Book Award for her memoir Just Kids : "Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don't abandon the book. There's nothing in our material world more beautiful than a book."