Dispatches from the What’s Happening to this World Dept.:
1. According to a retail doomsday scenario here , the Borders Books chain is trembling on the edge of extinction, just a few missed payments away from bankruptcy. The Borders in our neighborhood closed two years ago, sorely missed by area bookophiles.
Funny. Twenty years ago lit-lovers used to bemoan the passing of cherished independent bookstores which were being outflanked and undersold by chains like Bookstop and Waldenbooks. Now, with so few bookstores of any kind left, I’m feeling a bit misty about losing the Borders chain.
And, yes, I’m part of the problem. I can’t count how many books I’ve bought from Amazon at this point. With Amazon, I go from learning about a book at 9 AM to reading about it at 9:04 and ordering it at 9:06. In other words, I can order the book before I could grab my car keys and get out of the driveway. Amazon is just so easy, so encyclopedically complete, and so fast. I used to love wandering through bookstores, letting my eye fall here and there on some unfamiliar tome, but. . .
But wait! I did buy a book from a brick-and-mortar Half-Price Books the other day, which is itself a chain but always feels like an indy. However, it was a book my errant daughter absolutely had to have that night. Not even Amazon can move that fast.
2. That same report brings even more bad news: The Hearst group may soon can Esquire. No wonder the mag recently lured me back with an amazing $6 per year subscription offer–50 cents an issue, less than any pack of gum these days.
How the mighty are fallen. There’s a real sociological-demographic shift story there, with Esquire–ancestral home of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wolfe, Talese, Mailer, Southern, Wills, and more — falling behind the so-called “lads'” mags like Details, FHM and Maxim. If the Big E goes down, look for post-mortems in which staffers complain about dumbing down and relying way too much on celebrity cover cuties.
3. And in yesterday’s mailbox, I found this offer from the beleaguered New York Times:
“6 Months at half price? Now that’s a great deal!” the copy chirped.
It sure is–$6.70 a week for seven days, or $3.40 a week if you just want the Sunday doorstopper. But, alas, where’s the incentive to pay anything if you can get the entire NYT free and legal right here? I don’t see how this schizoid strategy can succeed.