Monday, August 1, 2011

End of an Era

Welcome back, everyone.  For those of you who faithfully follow my posts, you know I took last week off for a much needed family vacation. While there were no computers along for the trip, and I didn’t do any writing, I still had a clear topic in mind for this week’s post. However, you know what they say about the best laid plans and all.

Thanks to the invention of smart phones, my husband and my child still received their email during our vacation and still had unlimited internet access. I have to confess I’m still living in the dark ages with my old pink metallic flip phone, but that’s neither here nor there. It was an email my husband received during our vacation that compelled me to rethink my blog post this week. The email was from Borders Book Store announcing the store was formally closing and therefore having a going out of business sale.

The news of Borders’ closing wasn’t a shock. For some time now, we’ve all known it was coming. Still, there was this tiny part of me that hoped my location would avoid foreclosure. It’s Borders’ fault for instilling this hope in me. Not long after the closures were announced, I was in their store and cashiers were still recruiting customers to join their rewards program. On hearing that, I thought to myself there was no way they’d still encourage people to participate in this program if they were actually closing their doors. Fat chance! I suppose that’s what I get for assuming, since you know what they say about that too.

To finally have official confirmation of the looming loss of Borders is a hard pill to swallow. Ever since I’ve been in this literary game, my dream has been to see my books in print and lining the shelves of Borders. Now that will never be. My one small measure of comfort is that I did twice appear in magazines I was able to purchase from Borders. In 2005, my name was listed in an issue of Writer’s Digest as being an award winner in their annual literary awards. I made quite a fool of myself jumping up and down in the periodicals section when I saw my name in such a prestigious magazine. In 2009, I landed a feature article in Writer’s Journal, a magazine which Borders carried.

It’s not just the loss of Borders that has me reeling. There’s a bigger picture here that I can no longer avoid facing. For a few years now, I’ve been watching industry articles tout e-books as the future of publishing. Likewise, I’ve witnessed an increasing number of e-book publishers springing up to meet the growing demand of Kindle customers and the like. I’ve known it was coming, but like my knowledge of the impending closure of Borders, I’ve turned a blind eye to this trend. It’s the purist in me that makes me do this. For me, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of holding an actual book in your hands. And e-books certainly don’t have the smell of a new printed book that I love so much. An author can’t sign an e-book. A signed e-book isn’t going to sell at an auction for more than four thousand dollars as did a recently discovered, signed copy of Gone with the Wind. Not to mention, the evolution of electronics in literature seems wholly unfair.

Can you imagine any other industry in which everything will be one hundred percent electronic? How about baseball or football?  Instead of playing on the field with actual equipment, players could engage in a simulated game. Perhaps even from the comforts of their own homes negating the need for stadiums and depriving fans of the joy of seeing their favorite players and maybe even having the chance to meet them. Before you dismiss it as a preposterous idea, consider the evolution of music and movies. In your lifetime, if you’re as old as or older than I am, did you ever imagine a printed book would go by way of record albums or the eight track or the Beta and VHS and cassettes? Remember when camcorders first came out? Besides being costly, they were clunky and awkward. Now, a cell phone can double as a video camera and these devices are absurdly affordable.

Am I overreacting? Probably. Am I being a bit overdramatic? Most definitely, but I think I’m entitled. The closing of Borders feels like more than the end of era for me. Much as I hate to say it, it feels like a blow to my dream of mainstream, traditional printed publication. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

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