I once wrote a poem about the bankruptcy and liquidation of a department store called Arlan’s, which figured prominently (the store, not the bankruptcy) in my own childhood. The news that Borders had filed for bankruptcy didn’t have quite the same effect, but it isn’t far off.
Borders was the first store with a café in Philadelphia—before Starbucks and before Barnes & Noble-- at least as I remember. I spent hundreds of hours in the Borders in Center City, Philadelphia in the 1990s, sipping coffee, reading or working, and wandering over to the shelves to look at the poetry shelves, or essays, or other things. Borders was as likely to have an odd or unusual book as a good library. They also had wonderful readings (as well as a few very strange ones).
Bankruptcy doesn’t mean that Borders is destined to become simply a memory, but the odds of a successful restructuring don’t seem great. Unfortunately, the very qualities that make Borders (for me, at least) a far more appealing bookstore than Barnes & Noble may weigh against survival. Barnes & Noble is full of best sellers and management books, and rarely seems to have anything else. This is no doubt the only plausible strategy in a world where you can get any book in the world from Amazon in four or five days. Best to keep the books everyone wants right now, because anything more interesting will spend too much time on the shelves.
Borders did spell doom for many a small, quirky, local bookstore. But Borders was an excellent bookstore itself. I for one will miss it a great deal if it doesn’t survive bankruptcy, or survives as only a handful of stores.