Thursday, July 28, 2011

Good Night and Good Luck

I am sad today.  As most of you already know - and by "most of you" I mean "those of you who actually look at the news more than once a week and don't rely on blog posts for all your information" - Borders/Waldenbooks stores are closing.  That just makes me sad.

I know, it's a "sign of the times".  E-readers are the future of book publishing.  On-line mega-marts are the current, convenient way to shop.  But, I don't want to be current.  I want to touch the glossy paper, feel the weight in my hand, turn it over to read the blurbs, flip through the pages.  I want my Waldenbooks!

But Tami, you can find those things at any book store or library.  What's so special about Waldenbooks?  I'm glad you asked.  I have lived my entire life in the Midwest - Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska.  Not the high-population areas like Wichita, Denver or Omaha, but out in the sparser sections, where things tend to be fewer and farther between.  Where there's not a shopping center on every corner, and going shopping is a bit more intentional than dashing to the mall between stops at the dry cleaner and the grocery store.  It is not unusual for us to live 100 miles or more from even the smallest mall.

When we make that trek "to town", after making our extensive list and checking it twice because we may not be back for a couple weeks; after driving to Wal-Mart, two grocery chains and Walgreens looking for the only anti-itch shampoo that works; after searching to hell-and-gone for "that car part store out there on the west side.  You know, right by that place that used to be a Mexican restaurant, just past the John Deere dealer. You can't miss it," to pick up some thingamajig Hubby needs; after a full day of arguing over back-to-school shoes and violent video games and "No, that shirt is not appropriate for a twelve-year-old!" . . . there it was.  The promised land at the end of the mall.  The Holy Grail of all-day shopping incursions. Waldenbooks!  Leave the kids at the arcade with every quarter in your purse, forget the defrosting groceries in the car, just give me fifteen minutes of silence to absorb the pure joy that is (or was) Waldenbooks.

But wouldn't any bookstore give you that same rush?  Yes, but there weren't any other bookstores.  Waldenbooks stores were a staple in the malls of rural America, or at least my part of it.  Their competitors were a "big city" thing.  

The decline of that trend has not totally passed me by.  I have been surprised several times recently, when shopping an unfamiliar mall during our travels, to turn for the expected Waldenbooks and be disappointed.  It's like reaching for your glasses on the nightstand to find them missing.  "But it has to be there.  It's always there."  I have also noted the rise of Hastings stores in smaller towns, and they're almost as good but - because they also carry music, video games, and movies - they are "a store with a great book section" rather than a "bookstore".  Same contents, different atmosphere.

The kicker to all this whining is that the closing of Borders/Waldenbooks stores does not directly affect the availability of books for me.  Because we recently moved to the east end of Nebraska, we are closer to the "big city".  
The closest Waldenbooks is eighty-five miles from Green Acres.  Within that same approximate radius, I still have Barnes and Noble in Lincoln (85 miles), Topeka (88) and Council Bluffs (88).  There are also Hastings stores in St. Joe (65 miles) and Topeka, as well as in both towns where our kids go to college.  I will not be without the occasional bookstore fix.

What I will be without is yet another piece of my history, and it's getting tiresome.  I know I'm sounding a bit like an old geezer - "Back in the good old days we had a bookstore in every mall.  We didn't have those new-fangled on-line stores.  We had real stores where you could touch the books, kick the tires, see what we were buying." - but I don't want progress, I don't want change, I just want my Waldenbooks!

"Gentlemen, an old soldier salutes you and bids you farewell." -  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Gerard


  1. I mourned when the last Waldenbooks left this area several years ago. We also had B. Dalton and Crown, which aren't around any more either. I have to be honest though, going digital has saved my budget from impulse purchases that I didn't read and library fines when I was slow to read. We just have to teach ourselves a new way to shop I guess.

  2. I'm totally with you - there is something sad about the demise of these bookstores. I don't know how to compare the experience of sitting down with a good book to reading words on a computer screen. Maybe it's because I look at a computer screen 90% of my waking hours - but it's just not the same.

    And there's something slightly disturbing (to me) about the ebook trend. I know I'm slightly crazy - but I keep thinking about the scripture that tells us to 'tuck the word in our hearts' for the day when we might not have access to the Bible and I wonder ~ what better way to inhibit access to the Bible than to move everything to an electronic platform - and then deny access to electricity?