Department Stores without Borders

I'm quite chuffed with this title. It came to me during one of my semi-regular laments (okay, rants) to Jonathan on the sad demise of the BORDERS bookstores (hopefully with this post it will be OUT of my system for good). So okay, I know there were a lot of criticisms of these mega-bookstores, their anti-competitive nature, high prices, bad business model, uniformity blah blah blah.

Jesse opening a treasured Tintin
on Christmas morning 2010
($28 in Borders, $11 on Book Dep)
But there were some good things too. Firstly, they encouraged browsing. Frankly if one does find oneself in a shopping centre with children (never ideal at the best of times) there aren't many places you can go and know that everyone will find something to keep themselves happy. Actually there's nowhere like this. In Borders I could say to the kids "right, off you go!" and they would make a beeline for the kids books. Jesse would find the Tintin stand, Eleanore would quickly surround herself with 4000 copies of the Rainbow Magic series (each one a separate title) and Mim would be lying on the floor with a mix of Dr Seuss and Charlie and Lola while cuddling a big stuffed 'green sheep'.

I loved the large scale of a Borders store. It enabled browsing without bumping into ten other people and twelve strollers every time you turned around. And once you'd found what you were looking for, or had made a new literary discovery, there were comfy chairs to sit in and read it, indefinitely!

The decorating and interiors section was one of my favourites, closely followed by cooking and craft. Interior design titles usually fill one shelf in a smaller scale bookshop, but in Borders there was easily half a dozen shelves. I loved the magazine section, it had the best international range. I loved the music section when they had cds. Heck I even loved the quirky stationery and giftware! I also loved the fact that there was a coffee shop and a bathroom, so when there was the inevitable "I'm tired/thirsty/busting" we could take a break from the books without having to walk three miles in the other direction to find what we needed.

Okay so the book prices were prohibitive. I'll admit I was one of those people who would occasionally copy down a title and then go home to find it on the Book Depository site. I knew at the time I was probably helping to put Borders out of business, but buying three books online for the price of one in the store was kind of hard to beat. But how would I have known what to buy online if it wasn't for the range I'd carefully studied in store? The range and sheer number of books meant that we pretty much always found something good that we hadn't seen elsewhere. (For all their good points, of which there are many, small independent bookstores are just that: SMALL.)

I loved the fact that the bookshop became a 'destination' for our family, and that when the weather was bad, or we needed to get out, a bookshop was an obvious place to go. My kids love books and I'd like to think that the positive and conducive atmosphere in Borders contributed to this. We are a book-loving family and we are missing the BIG bookstore.

And now I'll leave you with an unrelated quote that the Parramatta Borders store (RIP) had printed up on a wall, it always made me laugh:

"I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon."
                                                                                               Ronald Reagan.
Our littlest reader


  1. You and J should get out You've Got Mail tonight. You can be Meg. He can be Tom.

  2. I did like a lot about that movie - mainly Meg's outfits and hair and of course the gorgeous small bookshop where the personal and knowledgable staff were paramount. J would certainly enjoy being the ruthless corporate type... you may be on to something there Alistair!

  3. So true, Sarah. I used to spend hours in the Macquarie Shopping Centre one. I miss it! Can't beat a big book store.

  4. Macquarie was our favourite too B! The Loft area is pretty desolate now Borders has gone. Without the big bookstore it's not a shopping centre that has much appeal unfortunately.


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