Though it was inevitable, I still find it saddening that when the two Borders stores in downtown San Francisco close, my neighborhood will be without a sizable bookstore and will have only one place to buy music- and since that place sucks- yes, you Rasputin Records- I'll soon have to venture out of the neighborhood to practice what was once my favorite pastime- browsing through book and record stores.
I don't have any fondness for Borders even though it was very accessible and if I was looking for something mainstream they usually had it. At least as far as books went (I did buy the Keith Richards autobiography there- heavily discounted). But it was a weak place to buy music- and I buy more music than books these days since I already own enough books to last me easily ten years, maybe 20, without ever buying another one. The problem with it, as it is for all large chain retailers, was an insufficiently knowledgeable staff and a middle of the road inventory. Which is why I, like so many other people, buy increasingly more and more stuff online- I can a) find what I want and b) read reviews about what I'm interested in and probably learn about similar things I may also like based on my interests. When's the last time you were in a large chain store and someone said "Oh, I see you're getting this Shakira cd- have you ever heard anything by BeBe or Paulina Rubio?"
Or perhaps I'm holding a book on screenwriting and they ask "Are you familiar with a series called 'Backstory'? Screenwriters on their own work. Great stuff!" Nah, that never happens anymore. Not even at the main library, which is within walking distance of my apartment and has everything I'd probably want (and for free), but I hate going to it because it's full of stinky homeless people doing nasty things.
Sigh. First it was Tower Records (a true loss). Then the independent Stacey's Books (another great loss). Then the Virgin store (no loss at all, except now there's a huge vacant building that's going to be that way for a long time to come). Now Borders. And after those doors close there's nothing left. In San Francisco- a city with an inflated sense of its own literary and musical sophistication. As much as I love it, tiny KAYO Books is a niche store and won't ever fill the void. Once Borders closes, as you stroll the streets of San Francisco and decide you want to read a Dashiell Hammett novel or Frank Norris' brilliant McTeague after being intrigued by some darker parts of lower Nob Hill or the Polk Gulch, you'll have to go elsewhere in a vehicle to actually buy those books.
Or you could just go back home and get it from Amazon: