Fermata, my Android tablet, came with an app for a Borders ebook reader. Never used it, and I guess I can delete that now. I also wonder what this means for any ebooks already purchased. Ebooks have a kill switch that can delete them from your reader without so much as a by your leave (July 17, 2009 was when Amazon Kindle readers found their copies of Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell had been deleted). Not only that, but as some people who were early adopters of new video formats found out, some media needs to phone home and if they don't get the server, will block access, assuming you're a pirate. (See, kids? This is why I refuse to release Hannah Singer or any of my comics in a proprietary format. Yeah, it may make them a cinch to pirate, but at least it doesn't punish the people who legitimately bought it.)
Naturally, people are talking about how print is dead and such, or that stores are no match for the online smorgasbord offered by Amazon. Others blame Borders demise on their being late to the ebook party. Some are saying that the problem is romance novels -- long the cash cow of book stores, apparently sales dried up once the option to go digital was presented.
Naturally, I have my own opinion.
I hadn't been to a Borders in ages the last time I went there. Not only that, but I don't go to Barnes And Noble nearly as often as I used to. Hearing Borders was closing made me go, "Why is that?"
I used to LOVE going there. Friday nights when you had local musicians doing shows. Local author signings. People went there like a singles bar for people who weren't interested in a quick fuck but actually trying for an LTR. Groups held meetings there, reading and otherwise. There were always new surprises on the shelves, guaranteeing that people like me wouldn't leave there without three or four new tomes under our arms. The magazine rack was packed to the gunnels with conservative politics (American Spectator), liberal politics (The Nation), computers (EGM), recreation (Scuba Times), anything. Newspapers from around the country, and in some cases around the world (I used to buy the Jerusalem Times every week), were there.
I don't think the problem is that Harry Potter ended, although that is a frequently cited reason. The theory is that they based so many projections on readership of books staying up that they guessed wrong when the series ended. That's bullshit. YA and younger books still sell like crazy (especially because, unlike an ebook, spilling something on a book doesn't cost you $150 and your DRM'ed shit to replace). People who finished Harry Potter went looking for new series to read -- some went with Twilight, some like me went with The Dresden Files, but we are still reading.
But the bookstores aren't there for us. Basically, the bookstores are selling things that are already popular. Dan Brown. Twilight. Percy Jackson. These are all things that can be found at Walmart or Target or whatever, and picked up while people are already there, they don't need to make a special trip to a specialty store to get them, and at a bigger discount to boot. Bookstores stopped being about new creations and new frontiers in writing and just became an extension of the very pop culture they didn't need to begin with.
Bookstores used to be like art supply stores. Art supply stores will always exist, online will never kill them. Let's say you are working on a comic book, and discover that you need new pens or new ink. You aren't going to wait 5-7 business days for the UPS guy to show up, you're going to want it right now. And while you're there for what you need, you're going to look over what's new, maybe pick up something you hadn't tried before (it was after I realized I had plenty of art boards and didn't need to buy another that I decided to pick up that book on Chinese brush painting), and talk with fellow heads. Comic shops are the same, you go for something specific and start discovering other things and interacting with the subculture. Bookstores are no longer their own culture, they are an extension of an already existing culture. One that doesn't value them like the subculture they left behind does. And they're dropping like flies.
B&N is now the only game in town (I was always a Waldenbooks fan, so it broke my heart when they were gone). They are keeping themselves afloat with their Nook ereader which is basically a proprietary Android tablet (it can play Angry Birds! Whoop de fucking shit! Although there are ways to nuke and pave the drive and put Honeycomb on it. If I didn't already have Fermata, an Android tablet for $150 would be tough to resist). They continue to go for the general public that will come and go whenever instead of us diehards.
If you're wondering why I feel I have no place in the modern world, this is it. Because no one wants people like me.