23 Aug 2014
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Ode to the Brick-and-Mortar Bookstore

With Borders bookstores bidding adieu and e-readers gaining popularity, one reader returns to her roots by going back to the shelves.

Ode to the Brick-and-Mortar Bookstore

The Barnes & Noble NOOK Color has turned my bookstore-devoted heart into a nasty fickle thing.

My love affair with bookstores – the brick-and-mortar versions – goes back to when I was a kid. Whenever my mom took me to the mall, the one thing I knew she’d buy me, no matter what, was a book.

Sure, there were days where I was a little disappointed to be bringing home a book instead of the latest trendy jeans, but for the most part, I always felt excited to be taking home more fodder for a hungry imagination.

Mom even approved my guiltiest pleasures: romance novels. She probably figured that, even if they weren’t works of art, I was at least still reading.

Books were also very comforting to me during different periods of my life. When my parents were fighting or I was more school than cool, I could escape into the always-welcoming pages of a book.

Eventually books became friends. I still have several books from my childhood, including a travel book on Tibet, my first copy of Les Miserables and Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. These books have moved with me from my mom’s house to college to my home with my husband.

Speaking of my husband, he and I have spent many a date night at the local bookstore, browsing through shelves and sipping hot cocoa. When we first dated, we’d head to a nearby Borders bookstore after dinner and spend a couple of hours there. That Borders fast became our go-to spot.

Borders was for us what the drive-in was to our parents. And like the drive-in, Borders’ days were numbered.

Last month we were heartbroken to hear our Borders, along with all of the other Borders bookstores around the nation, was closing.

It was the end of an era.

Then again, that era may have ended for me several months ago with a rather significant birthday gift from my original enabler.

My mom had been wondering what to buy me for a while and when we walked into Barnes & Noble she found the perfect present: the NOOK Color.

To my mom’s credit, she knew her daughter. The NOOK Color was so much more than the other e-readers on the market at the time. It allowed me to read magazines in glorious full color, surf the web and save room on already crowded bookshelves.

Suddenly I could subscribe to magazines that previously took up space on all three of my tables: bedside, coffee and dining.

The NOOK Color also featured popular apps, such as my toddler’s favorite, Angry Birds, and was easy to use in poorly lit environments specially created for a child’s bedtime.

I no longer had to relegate reading to my daughter’s daytime nap hour. I could read at night, after she had fallen asleep, without turning on a bright reading lamp.

I loved the NOOK Color as soon as I had it in my hot little hands. Fittingly, the first book I downloaded was a romance novel, chick lit at its best. I consumed it within a night and wanted more, more, more.

Soon I had the Tiger Mom’s manifesto, Tina Fey’s hilarious Bossypants, several other chick lit novels and even the Good Book itself.

As with any addict, I didn’t see how my behavior was hurting those I loved. Suddenly my husband and I were no longer taking regular trips to bookstores. I couldn’t bring myself to buy a physical book anymore – it was as though I were cheating on my NOOK. Sadly, this isolating behavior is likely keeping me from exploring outside my comfort zone.

While humorous memoirs, New York Times bestsellers and chick lit may easily draw my attention on the NOOK, I am likely missing out on books that don’t fall into those three categories.

I realized this when we took a trip into Barnes & Noble on a recent date night. “This is really nice,” my husband said, heading straight for the magazine stand.

Again, I had to squelch the desire to run home to my NOOK.

But then I found the most fascinating hardcover book, Disco: The Music, The Times, The Era by Johnny Morgan. As Derek perused the magazines, I sat down and read through Disco.

I loved it – I loved the book; I loved sitting there, turning its pages; I loved staring at photos of times past.

I remembered then why I loved bookstores. It wasn’t so much because of the end game of buying a book or a magazine. Rather, it was the journey to that one book. It’s about being surrounded by like-minded people, who may love literature or just want a brief escape from reality.

No matter how much I love my NOOK, I will never get that feeling at home alone.

And so, as with anyone who strays carelessly from something precious they took for granted, I’ve finally returned to my true love – even if it’s just to find books to purchase on my NOOK.

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