I worked for Borders. I admit it freely. For eleven years I walked through the doors of the store in Oklahoma City, and was greeted by the scent of ink on paper.
I started as a bookseller in 1996, but was quickly promoted, and rotated through most of the positions any Borders assistant manager might aspire to. As a Training Manager, I once helped open a new store in the New Orleans area, leaving the city barely ahead of hurricane Georges in 1998.
But my favorite thing about working for Borders was The Books. After all, that is a book store's raison d'etre--Books. More than anything, I loved opening boxes of books, just to see the new titles every week. It was Christmas-like, those discoveries, and I found so many new authors that I loved and continue to read. But the most special boxes were the ones that held laydowns.
For anyone who isn't familiar with the term Laydown, that is the release date for special books--the hot, new, or eagerly anticipated in the realm of printed pages. The most obvious example might be the Harry Potter titles. In fact, my last day working for Borders in July, 2007, coincided with the release of the last Harry Potter book.
"I'm going out with Harry," I announced to all my friends. Those boxes of J.K. Rowling's books were such a temptation, but we weren't even allowed to open any of them until THE DAY, they were so secret an entity and the laydown date so protected. We didn't defile that trust, but it was difficult not to do so. The employees waited until time on that fateful evening, before cracking open boxes and hauling the books out to the sales floor at one minute past midnight. Of course, the crowd had already gathered, and with line numbers in hand, the excitement was tangible and the noise and conversation nearly deafening as we all waited to buy our copy.
That's how I spent my first day of non-employment--reading about the boy who lived. I know things have changed and that e-books are now the thing. And yes, I am a consumer of those things. But I worry that gathering crowds, anxiously awaiting a midnight release may never happen again. After all, I can't see a multitude congregating, just to download a copy of their favorite author's latest on an e-reader together. That phenomenon, like Borders, may be dying.
The store I worked for in Oklahoma City was in the first wave of shut-downs earlier this year. I visited it shortly before it closed its doors for good. It was sad to see it go. Now, if the liquidators have their way, the remaining Borders stores will be laid out like a dying beast, waiting for scavengers to descend and pick its bones clean. How will we mourn its passing? What will this mean for the future? I don't have that answer. All I can do is say farewell, and promise to remember.