A lot of people, me included, grew up browsing the local library, Borders, and Barnes & Noble, picking something off the shelf that looked interesting, and learning about topics as disparate as high literature, philosophy, and cosmology. More so than any other bookstore, Borders was a place where you could just plop down and read and sometimes even doze. While that might have been a problem, in terms of business-model sustainability, it certainly made Borders feel like the center of a community--a private but publicly available information repository.
I grew up with Borders. My mom worked next to one, so whenever I had to wait for her I waited there. Whenever I found myself having to wait in Center City, I waited at the Borders at Broad and Chestnut. Most of the books I bought, I bought from Borders. They were always my favorite bookstore--the first one opening up in my area had been a revelation. I've never really felt at home in Barnes & Noble's stacks; I'll miss Borders.
So what's next? A big push by Books-A-Million? The company is far too small to compete with B&N--and even then B&N hasn't been having a good year? What about Amazon deciding to maintain a physical presence alongside a Web presence? (Its market is the descendant of mail-order, after all, and it would be following in the footsteps of brands such as Sears and Montgomery Ward.) American expansion by the Canadian chains Indigo and Chapters? (Kobo, because of Borders, certainly has some American presence.) Or of European and Oceanic firms, such as Waterstone's, W.H. Smith, fnac, Weltbild, Angus & Robertson, or some other established chain? Or a contraction of the publication industry in general? (I hope it's not that, I want people to read.) But there's the rub--despite the doom-and-gloom claims that Borders went bankrupt because its core business model wasn't sustainable (especially in wake of Amazon), the fact that so many other companies are successful in their fields, coupled with bad business decisions Borders made (most especially its early-2000s partnership with Amazon, which really served to poach Borders' customers), and the destabilizing effect of the recession, was more what brought the store down. The need to browse is human, and these big chain bookstores are consequently always stuffed with browsers. Browsing leads to impulse purchases: this creates a market bricks-and-mortar retailers can capitalize on that