To the mattresses
This summer saw the fall of a giant, an institution, that truth be told had been teetering for quite some time. And I’m not talking about Arnold, or Bin Laden, or Justin Beiber’s hair.
I’m talking about the fall of Borders. The emptying of bookshelves is about the saddest thing I can think of. It hurts the very part of my heart that houses all I hold dear, like my mother, and cranberry sauce, and moccasins.
Your fancy book learnin’ ways are being threatened, dear friends. On less chain means countless fewer author readings, less promotion of new voices, fewer books available to browse and buy and read and love in less affluent, out-of-the-way places.
With the closing of Shaman Drum and the Borders flagship store, Ann Arbor has rendered itself nearly useless when it comes to book shopping. Though the best of us know that Schuler Books in East Lansing has always been where it’s at.
This past weekend I took my first pilgrimage to the book lover’s mecca. If you don’t know that I’m talking about Strand in NYC I suggest you do your research immediately before you go on declaring yourself a bibliophile.
Established in 1927 on Fourth Avenue, Strand was at one time a part of New York’s Book Row. Book Row was a series of 48 bookstores started in the 1890’s that ran from Union Square to Astor Place. Or as I like to think of it: heaven.
Strand is famous for a few things:
- 18 miles of books (for reals)
- used, rare, and out of print editions (beyond your wildest dreams) and
- independent ownership.
Shopping at an independent bookstore when cheaper options like Amazon are available usually indicates that the patrons are affluent. Also, they value education and local businesses and put their money where their support is.
Unfortunately, books are a recreational good, not strictly necessary for survival, though you could argue for hours on all the ways they nourish. Shopping at independent book stores is a certain type of socioeconomic privilege often not acknowledged. Indies do best in upper-middle-class neighborhoods where education is king. Ann Arbor (home to U of M), East Lansing (home to MSU), Grand Rapids (home to Grand Valley State University). Here in Boston, indies are currently flourishing in Brookline (the only city in the world capable of producing Conan O’Brien) and Cambridge (Harvard). It’s no mystery why Strand thrives in a place like New York City. Count all the colleges within city limits and you’ll have your simple solution.
No matter your feelings on corporations are, it’s a sad day to see a bookstore fold. The simple equation is this: Fewer bookstores=fewer books.
Sometimes life plays out like an anti-You’ve Got Mail. FOX books has fallen. Shop Around the Corner though, well, she’s ready to go the the mattresses.
A quick note to anyone in NYC: If you show your Borders membership at Strand you’ll get a free (undisclosed) gift!