Each week in On the Other Hand, Ben Bartlett defies the common wisdom and identifies the other side of the story of cultural hot-topic issues.
Look, can I take just a minute and NOT feel nostalgic for the demise of Borders bookstores? It seems like everyone is rushing to eulogize this embarrassingly run-of-the-mill Barnes & Noble wannabe, and I just don’t get it.
I suppose the problem is that people are seeing a societal shift, the demise of the physical book, and an ugly situation in which formerly thriving stores become urban blight at the turn of a hat. Fine. I can get behind those discussions. But can’t we discuss them without Borders?
Borders almost never had good deals. Borders had perhaps the worst religion selection in the history of bookstores (in one incident especially fresh in my mind, I found 5 books suggesting the anti-Semitic bent of the Christian church but ZERO books by C.S. Lewis, John Stott, or John MacArthur). The history section was middling at best. The New Age section was bursting at the seams, as were various conspiracy theorists. The classic fiction was lacking, as was the philosophy section.
Borders had nothing original to offer at any point in the 14 years that I was aware of it. The staff was not knowledgable. The food was fine, but several orders more expensive than the food courts that were within 15 seconds’ walk. There was just nothing to recommend it.
I throw out all these complaints because our world, yes, is in a state of change… but some things never change. A bad store is a bad store, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that out loud. Our world is quicker than ever before at recognizing and appreciating quality products, but it also is more deadly than ever before to mediocre copycats.
Do your critical analysis, and have your philosophical arguments. But at the end of the day, don’t forget to ask yourself whether an event truly is a result of a societal trend… or whether sometimes a bad idea just needs to die.