Tuesday, July 26, 2011

If Borders Dies, Does Book Culture Follow?

I don't typically read the weekday Boston Globe, so thanks to my colleague Peggy for pointing out James Carroll's Op Ed piece on Borders Books closing. Take a moment to read it, and come back . . . .

Finished? Okay, here's my two cents:

Do we need to own books in order to have a book culture? I myself used to be a book hoarder; I loved going to my hometown Borders store as well as the many used book sellers and amassed a library that spilled over the five book cases I owned. Then I became a librarian. Did I need to own a copy of Dan Simmon's Drood because I enjoyed it so much? Heck no, I could borrow it from the library saving myself the money, clutter, and the hassle of lugging the books with me the next time I moved.

Do we need book stores in order to browse books? I don't know about you guys, but when I buy a book I head on over to Amazon.com. Can you browse books there? Hardly! And when everything moves digital, how easy does that become to browse? Libraries, on the other hand, are a browser's paradise and you can bet that we'll have browsing better figured out than any online retailer when the big switch to digital comes.

Are for-profit institutions really what we need protecting our book culture? No way! What happens to all of those niche titles and genres that don't get picked up by the mainstream culture--and don't even get me started on privacy or equal access concerns.

What do you say? Can Borders or Barnes and Noble do book culture better than libraries? Would the world really be worse off without big box book stores? Who will fill the void left by Borders? I can certainly say that libraries are happy to have the opportunity.


image courtesy of freidmanlynn via Creative Commons

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