Have you noticed lately that your bookstores are disappearing? A couple months ago Borders announced that it was going bankrupt and that there was a thirty/sixty/ninety day plan in place to close the majority of their stores. Now that I am back in Los Angeles for a few days, I see the reality of this business’ demise.
My entire twenties were spent in Border’s bookstores throughout the country. At college in Eau Claire, WI, I would escape campus and go the twenty minutes to Borders to free myself of the academia atmosphere. Once I moved to Los Vegas, I found refuge at the Borders at Rainbow and Lake Mead. It was where I went to write, meet new people and take a moment to find my center. Here in L.A. it turned into my Saturday morning ritual: Coffee and then an early morning movie at the Arclight. Now, I see, “everything must go” signs on its windows and that saddens me.
How did we get to the point where a predominant book store is closing? One might say that it is the economy. Others can scream technology and the introduction of the eBook. For whatever reason, we are now in an age that grabbing your coffee, flipping through magazines while hanging out with a friend or finding a corner on the floor with a new book is becoming a fading memory. To me, this is extreme sadness that deserves a little more pomp and circumstance than it is receiving.
Unfortunately though, this is the truth and the only thing that we can truly do is go forward with this knowledge. What exactly does going forward look like though? Does it mean that we will all get our e-readers and when we finally finish a book, we can throw the hard copy onto the top of the fire? Maybe, we can find some use to turning all these old books into a new energy source. “Coal is so out these days, our new natural resource is that old Encyclopedia Britannica we bought when the kids were eight in 1991”. Or possibly, there will be a huge fad of collecting books which will inspire the opening of Half Priced Books and used book stores all over the world. Perhaps, Sally Struthers will ask us to donate our books to poor underprivileged children throughout the world? I know I am being extremely sarcastic but really, what are we going to eventually do with all of these poor dead trees that will be lining book shelves that are also trees that had to die to hold their brothers and sisters together?
Again, I know I am coming off sarcastic, but space is a constant issue to all of us and conservancy is even more important than that. EBooks, the internet and all of the virtual ways to do research are helping us to cut down on our paper usage and that puts smiles on almost all of our faces; well maybe except for people who work in publishing. While we are cutting down though on that paper resource, what happens to all the resources that have been used to make what we already have? My friends, we are on the road to the extinction of the book. That means, in the next twenty years or so, we need to find good use to the books we have, and that also means, we will have to start being selective on the books that we save. I know, I know, this sounds extremely farfetched, as well as further down the road than we think, but in the next five years, when the kindergartners that are currently using ipads are in fifth grade with only eBooks for their classes, what is going to happen to those books in that elementary library?
My reasoning, which has no scientific background at all, is that there is greatness to being able to conserve the paper and resources with the evolution of technology. While we are doing that though, we have to be conscious of what we already have literally on our shelves, making sure we do not just throw all these perfectly good books out to the curb. This thought seems so far away but I would like to know the preparation for this because it will be an issue: Just ask the kindergartners. So now I, even though fully supportive of the eBook, will now go back to reading my paperback. Supportive doesn’t mean that I’m quite ready to give in just yet.
This article can also be found in DiGn2it Magazine