Borders Books and Music, R.I.P.

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  • The announcement was made last week that all Borders stores will be shutting down, going out not with a bang but a months-long clearance sale. Another giant brick and mortar store goes the way of the dinosaur and, in response, I reflected on the place Borders has had in my life. After about two minutes of thinking, I realized there wasn’t much of one, but I did manage to cook up five random memories in tribute to the store that was always second place behind Barnes & Noble. Unwinnable Fact: the soon-to-be-former Borders president is named Mike Edwards too!

    Here’s the list, in order of importance:

    Finding Urge Overkill’s Exit the Dragon for $3.99 in the Clearance Bin

    Borders had a pretty intense clearance bin, especially in the late ’90s when new CDs below $7.99 were a rarity. To find a new CD by a known rock band for that price was as lucky as finding a twenty in an old pair of jeans lying in the back of your closet.

    Unfortunately, Urge Overkill’s follow-up to Saturation was a spotty affair at best, with a couple of great songs and filler galore otherwise [Editor’s Note: In fairness, Saturation is one of the best rock albums of the ’90s – any follow-up was pretty much doomed to disappoint]. In retrospect, maybe I should have tried out that Spyro Gyra CD that was in front of it.

    Also, I wonder how many copies of R.E.M.’s Monster made it into that section in the years after. You can always find multiple copies of that in the used bin!

    Spending an Hour Killing Time Before a Movie

    Also known as “Escaping the Shitshow That is the Mall During Christmas.”

    Borders was always good for this, with its coffee shop (at least at the Garden State Plaza store), its ample supply of magazines, the graphic novel aisle (more on that to come) and the other random board games and smart toys they peddled.

    I remember being there with a bunch of friends and killing time because we missed a particular showing of the first Transformers movie. During this hour, I discovered that they made a Transformers version of Monopoly. I stared at the awesome box art of the classic characters for way too long. I’m pretty sure I was either hypnotized into almost buying it or more bored than I’d ever been in my life.

    I didn’t buy it.

    The Graphic Novel Aisle

    Not quite the nerdiest aisle in Borders, the graphic novel aisle was always interesting because it gave me the opportunity to see what the civilians were reading. Mostly Marvel and DC stuff, of course, although seeing stuff like Hellboy and Sin City pop up on the shelves was always rewarding.

    The one major problem was that there would actually be KIDS in this section sometimes! Imagine that – kids in the section with the comics and the superheroes…

    The Science Fiction/Fantasy Aisle

    The nerdiest aisle in Borders.

    Sometimes there would even be some dude camped out on the floor reading and drinking a Coke right in front of the section of the bookshelf where you wanted to look. To get him to move aside required a process not too different from the “What is your favorite color?” bridge scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It didn’t help that said dude would often look like Terry Gilliam’s bridgekeeper from that movie.

    [Editor’s Note: I hate that guy. On a Saturday afternoon, the local Barnes & Noble looks like a homeless tent city for all the people sprawling in the aisles.]

    Cross-Referencing Videogame Magazine Reviews

    As I mentioned above, Borders typically had an ample magazine section. In the days before the Internet was any good, this was the only way to get inside info on music, movies and especially new video games, other than the limited offering of television at the time (ONLY 100 channels?). Typically, a perusal in the back of a GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly was sufficient enough when trying to figure out what the hell a Crash Bandicoot was and whether or not his game was worth buying.

    Looking over this list I realize that I’ve probably only ever spent $3.99 at Borders! I guess I’m surprised they lasted this long.