Monday, February 28, 2011

Borders Closing, Technology and and life as a Brick and Mortar owner

Recently there has been a lot of talk in the news about the demise of Borders Books.  Many have asked my opinion and all have been surprised by my response.  They have assumed I would be doing cartwheels that the big bad box store was closing it doors.  Exactly the opposite of that is true.  I sit here with a hard, cold knot of fear in my stomach.  Not fear for myself nor my business but fear of the unknown for the rapidly changing book industry.   As well as some thoughts on things I can consider doing to bring my store into this world of technology. 

As a business owner (and the owner of my brick and mortar building) my thoughts are filled with the publishers and banks that will not be paid, wondering what this means for authors and their royalties and for bookstores continuing to do business daily with these  publishers and banks.  I think of the people that are now without jobs and landlords faced with broken leases and empty buildings.  I think of the communities where these stores had pushed out the small independent bookstores and how these towns and neighborhoods are now faced with not having a bookstore.
It is no secret that I believe strongly in supporting local businesses and  that I am a founding member of Dillon's buy local campaign, a group of individuals and businesses that promote shopping and supporting the locally owned and managed businesses. You would think that I would be cheering at the thought of a chain store tumbling but I am not.  I see the bigger picture as I think of other industries facing these same challenges.  Music stores and video stores also deal with the competition of box stores, online sellers and the downloading technology.  But when a business as large as Borders files bankruptcy there will be a ripple effect and one just hopes it doesn't turn into a tsunomi.

As I sit here this morning I am contemplating the changes that I have witnessed in the book industry in the 20 years that I have been privilaged to call myself a bookseller.  I remember  trying to decide about audio books and wondering if people would want to be read to and not actually be holding a book.  I have to laugh as I recall agonizing on whether to start carrying books on CD and phasing out the cassettes. Well, Baby we have come a long way since I was the new kid on the block.

My head spins as I think of the rapidly advancing technology.  Wondering if I will be left behind in the dust and buried under pieces of discarded plastic and batteries as people lay aside the latest contraption in search of the newest, shiniest, fastest device available. I see people texting while in restaurants, accessing the internet, checking their email and facebook accounts and I have to wonder why they can't just set aside this time with friends for simple face to face conversation.  I really wonder if they may be texting each other across the table. In this drive thru society we seem to be losing our ability to communicate one on one.  We are in such a frantic search for instant gratification that I have to wonder where it will lead and what it will cost us on a personal level.

I still like to listen to vinyl records, I like the feel and smell of a real book when I read, when I walk my dog I prefer to listen to the sounds of the street and greeting people without having to remove an ear bud in order to hear their hellos.  I don't like waiting on customers that are talking on their cell phones,  listening to their Ipods or texting while expecting me to take care of them at the same time. (I actually had a woman "shush" me midsentence when she answered her cell phone and proceeded to discuss her friends party from the night before, I walked away and I did not win any customer service awards that day.)

The notion of e-books and how rapidly they are infiltrating our lives has left me astounded.  On one hand I see how exciting this technolgy is but on the other I know that for myself I will always prefer to curl  up with a book.  I think there is room in this world for both. 

I have to wonder how long it will be before someone like me will be on display at the Smithsonian next to the dinosaurs.  Will I be sitting behind glass in a rocking chair, with a tea pot covered with a cosy, wearing very thick reading glasses as I hold a book? Will I  be part of a field trip where the students  stare in awe and ask what is that?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Winter, Reading, Nascar and Hot Tea

When I accessed my blog this morning I was stunned to find 5 posts that I never finished and 3 that just had titles.  Good intentions and good ideas all saved for another day.  I spent the better part of yesterday (Sunday) mourning the end of football and preparing myself for the onslaught of race car season.  I am not a fan (no apologies)  I never have been.  At times I will sit with Bill as he revs up for each race and I attempt to nod and keep eye contact with him as he explains this "sport" to me.  After 28 years you would think one of us would admit defeat......

Ironically we met the weekend of the Indy 500.  I had won a mini-Indy contest on the radio and like any good college student I was out spending the $500.00 that I won on adult beverages.   Bill was impressed that I had won a "car race".  I think this set us up for him believing we were soulmates with a shared passion.  The truth was I had just written my name on a slip of paper and dropped it in a box.

I had every intention of spending the day of the Daytona at work.  I had made great progress in locating my desk on Saturday and had made a list of things to do that could be done on Sunday while Bill was planted in front of the TV watching history be made.  (yes I paid close enough attention to realize it was a big deal for a 20 year old kid to win this race)  But as things sometimes go my plans didn't quite work out the way I intended.  I ended up in bed with a horrific headache. 

I was tucked away under my favorite blanket with  a pot of tea, a pile of books, water and aspirin. Bill was talking to Tonka and swears our dog, (like Enzo from the book "Art of Racing in the Rain")  was now a nascar fan.

I smiled (more like a grimace) and said OK.  As the afternoon progressed I would alternate between sleep and reading.  I finished "Tick-Tock" by James Patterson (started a couple of weeks ago but kept getting put aside as I read other books)  and I also finished "Fly Away Home" by Jennifer Weiner (well,  I started and finished this one).  I also read a few pages from a new book entitled "The Weird Sisters" 

Despite the headache it was a good day.  My desk and my to do list were both waiting for me this morning.  It is a beautiful winter day. (it is no secret that I love the winter weather) That crisp air and the blue sky that only seems to happen in Montana.   I have a cup of tea and I am surrounded by books.  The headache is gone and I am blessed that there is so much good in my life.  as always I have Books Galore and So Much More.