Soon we will see first hand just how important they were to us. Borders has decided to close about 200 of its Waldenbooks and Borders Express stores by the end of January. I mourn the loss of these store for both personal and professional reasons.
It’s a sad statement about the industry that a couple hundred outlets are about to disappear. It puts more control of what’s on the shelf into fewer hands. Fewer choices for readers means even more emphasis on the best sellers and less chance for newcomers to get any visibility.
In my area there are almost no independent bookstores left. By default, Waldenbooks and Borders Express have become the neighborhood bookstores. The booksellers in these stores get to know their regular customers and are able to hand sell books they want to support. That has helped me gain a toehold at least in the local marketplace.
On a more personal level, I have formed real friendships with the managers of some of these stores and hate to see them pass out of my life. In Maryland I spent time at the front of stores in Gaithersburg and Wheaton, and more recently had first (and last) signings in Glen Burnie and Owings Mills. Markets I was just cultivating, now gone.
In Virginia I just did the same in Waldenbooks in Chesapeake where the manager clouded up at the mention of her store going away. Tracy who had run the Waldenbooks in Landmark Mall got moved when that store closed to Glen Allen which is now also on the chopping block. Closer to home, Ilsa at Springfield Mall and Dan at Dulles Town Center have been my strongest supporters for years. They will also watch their stores close in the next few weeks.
You can find the stores in your area that will soon be gone on this national list - http://media.bordersstores.com/content/mediarelations/BSRClosinglist.pdf - and I strong suggest you stop in soon to say hello – and goodbye – to these booksellers. I still feel that the shrinking number of independent bookstores is a horrible comment on our society, but I must add that the loss of any bookstore that has tried to serve its local readers is a tragedy worth mourning.