Man on the Street: Borders stores closing – what does this mean?
Floppy discs, VCRs, phonebooks and payphones – what were once considered staples of everyday life have slowly faded into the background as new technologies flourished. Are books – tangible, printed and bound pages of text – next to be added to the list of obsolete and fading trends?
After hearing the news of the Borders bookstore chain selling to a liquidator, which means the closure of all its 399 stores, The Sacramento Press went out to the streets of downtown Sacramento to ask people how they felt about this decision.
Robin Louie, 62, a retired homemaker from Roseville, said she thinks that the situation is terrible.
“We had a really big Borders and a Barnes and Noble across from the Galleria,” Louie said. “But that Borders was great. It was used for lectures and all kinds of other stuff for different groups. It’s just a bummer – it’s a shame.”
Carrying her copy of “The Accidental Bestseller” while waiting for her train at the Amtrak station, Louie faithfully remains a devotee of the paper book.
“I like books,” she said. “Real books. At Borders, there used to be a huge selection of CDs, but now there are few and fewer. And now, even if you go to stores like Target or Walmart, there are fewer and fewer books on the shelves. It’s just like newspapers.”
Louie, who just returned from a cruise to Alaska, said she noticed many people there with Kindles and other electronic books. “Too many people now use Kindles and things,” she said. “And I have to admit, they could be very handy. I read three books on the cruise, but with the Kindle, they would all be in just the one thing.”
Jonathan Su, 18, an incoming freshman at UC Davis, said that he was bummed to see the stores close but he expected it to happen. For Su, Borders was a place to hang out with friends and drink coffee at the in-store cafe.
“It was pretty expensive,” Su said. “I usually read books there, but I didn’t buy the books there. It was like a library – you just look at the books. People usually just order off of Amazon.”
Su said he doesn’t think that the books themselves will become obsolete, however.
“I think there are some things about holding an actual book,” he said. “It’s not the same when you’re reading off of the Kindle or something.”
Justin Wolf, a 25-year-old photographer from Sacramento, has been a frequent shopper at Borders.
“It’s a little disappointing,” Wolf said. “I shopped there often. I bought most of my books there, pretty much. I had the membership card and would always get emails about discounts, so I’d go there a lot.”
Wolf said he has never tried using e-readers or other devices to read his books. He added that he doesn’t think that e-readers will ever take the place of paper books.
“It’ll be like the vinyl,” he said. “They’ll always be around.”
Niki Williams, 32, an environmental consultant living in Davis, said she felt sad to hear of Borders stores closing despite being a supporter of smaller, local bookstores.
“Borders was a big-box company,” Williams said. “And even though I like to support local bookstores, it’s still really sad. It’s like removing another level of variety for consumers. And Borders wasn’t just a place where you could buy books. There’s a sort of a culture around bookstores of people who are interested in different things and in learning and expanding their horizons.”
While she said she understands the easy and convenient qualities of e-readers, Williams continues to read her books in paper form.
“I’m definitely old-fashioned,” she said. “I also like to loan people books I think they’d be interested in, and it’s hard to do that with e-readers. I think there will always be a niche market for books. They’ll be like classic cars – a select group will always follow them while everyone else is on e-readers.”
Leman Woods, a 38-year-old barber visiting from Oakland, had not yet heard about Borders closing before speaking to The Sacramento Press.
“I don’t know what to think,” Woods said. “I don’t read books – I go online to read, so I just use my computer. It’s more convenient because there are thousands of books in one place right there.”
Though Woods supports the use of electronic forms of books, he said he does not feel that they will ever fully replace the printed book.
“I don’t think everyone will start reading online or electronically,” Woods said. ”Not everybody is computer-literate.”
Christopher Ogawa, a 23-year-old cheer camp instructor from Elk Grove, said that he feels books and bookstores are very important and is sad to see Borders stores close.
“Where will people go now?” Ogawa said. “Borders was an alternative for college students to buy textbooks that were usually expensive on campus. And now it’s one less place to study. It’s disheartening because text has been there since – a long time – but now bookmakers will be out of jobs and bookstores are closing.
“Electronic books won’t replace real books,” Ogawa said. “There are so many people in the education system that support and use books. And not everyone has access or money (for electronic readers), so books will always stay around.”
What do you think? Will electronic readers and other digital forms of text replace the printed book, or are books here to stay? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.