"No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books."
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
This idea of books as friends is dear to me. Quotes abound on this comparison. For many people, and perhaps especially those inclined to loneliness, books have lent hours of comfort and company.
I, growing up as an only child, found solace in the pages of many a good book, treasuring them, reading them over and over, organizing them and looking forward to monthly trips with my schoolteacher mother to Gardner's which was a book wholesaler. She would pick out her books and buy them in bulk for her students and I could pick as many books as I wanted to call my own. I remember laying on my bed when we arrived home, my pile high, trying to choose which book I wanted to read first.
When I was old enough to work, I just knew that the best job in the world would be to work at a bookstore. I applied at Barnes and Noble and didn't get the job. I applied at Border's and did. It was the best job in the world. Especially for someone like me, who not only was a lover of books but who was (is) a bit socially awkward. I was surrounded by others who loved books. I only had to work the cash register and the info desk part of the day and the rest of the time, my job was to alphabetize the books in 'my' section. My section was the art section and then was switched to Travel. But it wouldn't have mattered. It was the quiet, alone time doing something calming and it involved these important, steadfast 'friends' of mine. Some people would hate this type of work, I know. But personally, I would go back to work there for free if I had more time in my life.
So, I was truly sad to hear that Border's has filed bankruptcy. For all the evils of certain aspects of big corporations, working at Border's was such an amazing experience and the truth is, this company is so good to their employees. I'm all for the independent bookstore and smaller mom and pop stores but I have a very soft spot in my heart for this company.
But mostly, I'm troubled about what this news means to the future of books. Real books. I hate to think that bookstores, in general, might go by the wayside. When we can buy books online and now READ books online, I don't know what's going to happen to us....as a people. What if years down the road, there are no books to touch?
And more books are going out of print these days. And going out of print more quickly.
While, I do care about the environment and I know that we need to stay in step with the times, I just can't reconcile my mind to the notion that we will no longer be able to browse through a bookstore, reading the backs of books, skimming a chapter in this book and that book while sipping a cup of coffee.
And what about all the people who meet in bookstores?!
Maybe I'm just getting old. Maybe pretty soon, I'll be rocking in a chair, musing about how it used to be. I guess I already do that, minus the chair.