There has been a certain amount of glee from some quarters (Rachel Cooke, The Observer) at the news that Borders have gone into administration. It is not a feeling I share. I agree with Ms Cooke that we need more independent bookshops – why not – but where I differ is in her optimistic view that Borders' departure will open the door to new start-ups in the indy book selling arena. The way I see it – if a giant like Borders cannot survive the onslaught of recession and Amazon combined, then there is nothing down for anybody.
I like Borders. For me they will be a sad loss. Maybe in London there is enough choice amongst bookshops to allow the luxury of being able to choose between book-shelf aesthetics, but up here in the cultural desert of The Wirral, where libraries close, the loss of any bookshop is cause for enormous regret. Borders, though - the only place on Merseyside where you can go for a coffee later than five-thirty pm; the only place where copies of Asimovs, Locus, Analog, Interzone et al can be browsed and bought at will, this is a sad loss indeed. Now, if I want a copy of a sci-fi mag I'll have to take out a year's subscription. And if an Indy shop does come along, will they stock these magazines? Will they open outside of the regular 9 till 5 zone? (which are, incidently, the same hours as my day job) I doubt it. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm thinking the days of browsing in book shops are nearly over, at least in this part of the world. Not a cause for celebration.