The Corner

Borders Patrol

Like Jay, I remember the original Borders store in Ann Arbor. When I discovered it in 1988, it was a revelation — the best bookstore in the world. Up to that point, I had done most of my book-buying at indistinguishable stores that pushed best-sellers and carried similar, predictable inventories. Borders seemed to cram an enormous amount of books into a small space and had single copies of thousands of titles, including many that couldn’t be found anywhere else. It was a book browser’s dream. The staff was famously knowledgeable. For consumers, it presented a new kind of choice. During its initial expansion, Borders maintained this strategy. Over time, it began to look like the stores it originally had competed against, just bigger. I remained a Borders loyalist for a long time, but by the late 1990s, it had abandoned its former, wonderful self. I’ll miss Borders when it’s gone, but in truth it’s been gone for a while already, like a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

Today, I’m a big fan of Amazon.com. I also enjoy small, independent bookstores. The best ones often occupy a funny niche, thriving (or struggling) in towns that are large enough to need a bookstore but too small to have attracted a Borders or Barnes and Noble. Tomorrow, I’ll be signing copies of The Big Scrum at one of my favorites: Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord, Mich.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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