Bye Bye, Borders…Hello Backlash?

currently playing on my iPod: Hannah by Freelance Whales

Borders filed for bankruptcy, indies are closing all around, and us book lovers are wondering what the future holds. Will the library be the only place to browse new books–sans latte and late evening hours? Now I love the library, but its purpose is different from that of a bookstore. I will leave it at that so as to be brief. So here’s my idea. Perhaps it already exists somewhere, but here goes…

Backlash Bookstore: For the Love of Books

A theme bookstore with a Dickens feel. You enter the heavy wooden doors to the chime of a brass bell. An employee dressed in Dickensish clothing firmly encourages you to disable all electronic devices–cell, blackberry, iPhone, Pod, Pad–whathaveyou. The sounds of the place are different from everyday life. What’s this? A table of typewriters and stationary? Old fashioned cash registers? No canned music, huh. A man quietly plucks a mandolin near a counter filled with penny candy, where a mustached man is selling bakery goods, real root beer, and teas.

You begin to peruse the bookshelves. Wait, no paperbacks? Only beautiful hardback books. Old titles, new titles. But what’s this? There is no Young Adult section, no magazines…instead the romances are on thick wooden shelves under a sign that reads “Rather Racy.” Non Fiction and coffee table books are shelved under “Proper History and the Sciences.” That God book your aunt wanted you to buy is shelved alongside a Chicken Soup book and one on Plato in the section labeled “Philosophers.”

You walk in and around little nooks and crannies where people are reading and chatting. You hear someone mention that their kids are enjoying playing with the old fashioned toys in the supervised area in the back of the store for only ten dollars an hour.

Now here’s a section entitled “Extraterrestrials and Other Nonsense”–must be Sci Fi. And over there is that book that made your mother cry, nestled in the area called “Serious Dramatics.”

At last you arrive at the area where it seems most of the fiction is shelved. A large carved sign hangs here as well. It reads “Diverting Ditties.” You run your fingertips across the textured and multicolored covers. The beautiful cover art. The edges of the novels. Some with drawings along them. Others are uneven in that lovely old way.

You choose two and head toward the classroom on the right side of the store. Today you will be participating in a class on medieval illumination. Parchment is provided along with traditionally prepared inks. The experience is well worth the cost.

After your trip into the past, taught by a man in a monk scribe’s robe, you meander to the left side of Backlash. Here is the prize of the place. The printing press. It is an authentic looking reproduction of the very first printing press. A man in an apron is explaining how it works to a group of students here on a field trip. One boy comes forward to set the last bit of type. “This is where it all began, children,” the man in the apron says proudly. I wonder if he and the monk scribe have daily arguments on that topic.

Upon purchasing your real books, you leave through the dark doors, the brass bell says “Good bye,” and you head back out into the world of 2010.

I know this is a silly daydream, but I would rather think on happy possibilities than weep into my pillow bemoaning the fact that my favorite place to hang will most likely disappear in ten years. I hope that Facebook guy was wrong when he said (big fat messed up paraphrasing) We will all live online now.  The internet will be our world.

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