Bookbanter Column: Borders Lives on, Sort of (March 2, 2012)

A lot people will acknowledge that 2011 was a pretty bad year for a lot of people; it was also the worst year possible for Borders, concluding with its going out of business sale in September, where thousands of employees (including yours truly) lost their jobs.

During the month of the company’s demise, I wrote a column, “Thank You Borders,” on what Borders had done for me personally, as well as what it had done for so many readers and customers and employees over its many years of service.

Now, six months later, Borders Books, Music & More is becoming little more than a memory for everyone . . . and yet the memory that was Borders lives on in some ways.

This is how.

For about a month now I have been working for Dimple Records, where I am known as the “book guy.”

Dimple Records is a chain of seven stores in the Sacramento area that sells new and used music, DVDs, and video games; they even have an awesome used vinyl store.

Throughout the month of March Dimple Records will be rolling out the first of their store remodels, as they move into the world of selling new and used books.

The first store will be the Citrus Heights store and will offer a larger variety of titles of fiction and nonfiction, as well as children’s and graphic novels.

In my work in preparing the books for this first remodel, I have come across a number of these “memories” of Borders.

During my days, I spend my time sorting, organizing, shelving and preparing hundreds of books, and everyday I come across evidence that there was once a chain of bookstores called Borders.  A number of the used books I come across have the “BINC sticker” on the back of the book, which was the sticker that Borders used to identify and organize every single book it received.

The sticker tells me things like when the book was received, where it was shelved, what the cost of it was, and what store it came from.  It’s almost like a time capsule as I look at each sticker, which helps me shelve the book in the appropriate section for Dimple.  Of course, I have to take the sticker off and discard it, but with each BINC sticker I see, I learn when it was roughly bought and from which store and have a little thought about the short history of this book when it once lived at a store called Borders.

A number of the bookcases and bays that I’m sorting and shelving onto were once located within a Borders store, which helps me as I know how to adjust the shelves, use the endcaps, attach shelf-talkers, etc.  Dimple Records also acquired a number of other fixtures from Borders with plans to use them with their remodels, all of which I am familiar with.  There was even an A-frame that had an old sign I’d made myself during the going out of business sale from the Roseville store, and I can remember selling that fixture to the customer who was from Dimple; little did I know I would be working for them within five months time.

Finally, every once in a while I’ll be going through a box, taking out the books in columns and stacks and then sorting through them, placing them in their respective section piles, and I’ll come across an old relic of a book with the “Borders Exclusive” sticker on it.  These were books that were either directly published by Borders using their own publisher, or were books that were published and were only sold and available through Borders.  The one I came across the other day was The Great Snape Debate, which was made available at Borders leading up to the release of the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

It featured writings from the likes of Amy Bermer, Orson Scott Card and Joyce Millman, on whether at the very end Snape would turn out to be a friend or an enemy to Harry Potter.  As I saw this book, I was instantly taken back to the release of this book, and the midnight release party of the final Harry Potter book at my Borders store.

These “reminders” represent just a few memories of Borders that I have come across so far, and I will no doubt come across more in the future.  My story also is a single, personal one, and there are no doubt a number of similar stories being experienced by people across the country, as those fixtures and shelves and BINC-stickered books and Borders Exclusives are rediscovered by people who used shop at or work for Borders.  Some readers may see this column as little more than a piece of nostalgia, as I have a fun little trip down memory lane, but I think there is more to this.  It gives a sense of recycling about these Borders items and fixtures, as they are reused for new purposes, or in the case of Dimple Records, are reused for the purpose they were originally intended.

So the next time you’re in a bookstore, take a second to stop and think about where the shelf or bookcase may have come from; contemplate on whether it might’ve once made its home within a former Borders bookstore; flip over that used book and take a peak and see if there’s an old sticker on the back that’s a mustardy-yellow.  If it’s got one, that means your holding a book in your hands that was once purchased from a Borders bookstore.

(Originally published on Forces of Geek)


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