It seems like every summer, a store chain that I enjoy goes out of business. There was Circuit City in 2009, Blockbuster last year and this summer it was Borders. Many factors can lead to the unfortunate closing of popular businesses but it usually comes down to business supply not meeting customers’ demands or simply costing too much in this troublesome economy. Granted, many things are moving online now with the digital revolution, and that brings many benefits. However, I am most upset with Borders, one of my favorite hang outs at home, going under. What caused its collapse and what was its certain appeal?
I remember first hearing that many Borders would be closing and worrying that mine would be next. Everyone kept saying the same thing: “Oh sure, many will close but not ours.” Unfortunately, when I saw the big “everything must go” signs and confirmed with an employee, the realization sunk in. No longer would I be able to browse around with friends, scouring the new CDs, DVDs and most importantly, books. Customers could grab any book or magazine off the shelf, take it to an empty aisle or the café with a nice cup of coffee and just read. Enjoying the time lost in the material as the world faded away was a nice feeling that will be missed. While quite a few books can be bought online, it’s not the same as browsing through the shelves and finding something that speaks to you. I’ve discovered many of my favorite authors from just walking around and grabbing something that stuck out. At least libraries are still around for this but it’s only a matter of time before they too disappear. The physical, tangible book as we know it is fading from existence and being overtaken by a new beast: the E-book.
When E-book readers first came out, I thought they were unnecessary as I’d rather hold an actual book. With a steady increase in popularity and a variety of options, such as the Kobo, Nook and the ever-popular Kindle, there has to be something to it. After much scrutiny in the past and eventual relentless researching, I gave in and bought a Kindle. Carrying up to around 3,000 books max in a tiny device is pretty amazing. Also, many of the classics are in the public domain, so they did not cost a thing. Readers can browse for new books right on the device, see popular passages others have highlighted, share excerpts through social media and much more. While I do enjoy its various perks, there are some things you only get with physical books.
The most obvious crutch of E-books compared to “real” ones is the problem of passing them on. Since a purchased E-book is digital content, as with other digital merchandise today, usually only the buyer has access to the content. If you buy an E-book though the device or online, that’s the end of it. Soon enough, buying and selling used books will be a thing of the past, much to poor college students’ dismay. You would think that without the need for expensive printing costs that inflate book prices, E-books would be a cheap alternative. However, this isn’t always the case, and sometimes the E-book is more expensive than the actual book. This backwards dynamic is holding back the potential of E-books. Another thing to think about with the eventual evaporation of the physical book is getting children into reading. It’s sad to think that the future may substitute reading Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein in a circle in favor of showing off a little screen, even if some have fancy graphics and sound. Whatever comes next, it just never will be the same.