Thursday, 30 July 2009

Borders in Oxford Street, London

I had a few minutes to spare before meeting a friend yesterday, and decided to head to my favourite hang out spot on Oxford Street, the four floors of the book shop Borders. But what a surprise awaited me!

It appeared to be busier than usual, tables at the front entrance with a sign saying ‘books £1’, and many folk rummaging through Transformer annuals and the like. ‘Hm, a summer sale’ I thought as I moved upstairs to the main area for fiction and then it hit me. The whole shop was for sale! The flagship store is another victim of the recession – it is closing its doors forever on August 8th (and when it reopens it will more than likely be a new branch of clothes shop New Look).

I moved like a stricken survivor through the upper floors, watching desperate people trawl their way through the wreckage. Books everywhere, in any place, in any order. Books on the floor, books trodden on, books clambered over, books torn under feet. It was the autopsy of a friend.

Perhaps I had inadvertently helped contribute to its demise? I would often head to Borders to do magazine and book research, as I could gather together everything needed and then sit in the in-store coffee shop and jot down information in my notebook. Publishers details, agent information, useful websites, magazine feature ideas, ‘letters to the editor’ – it was perfect, and what is more I didn’t have to actually buy any of the magazines or books, great for me at the time being rather skint. And I wasn’t the only one – nearly every table at any one time would be strewn with books as people tapped on their laptops with a coffee by their side, it seemed encouraged by Borders itself. But perhaps using a book shop as a comfortable research library is not really the done thing, especially now. We are all sorry now.

And so I gazed around at the carnage in front of me. 50% off everything! Buy this for £3, buy that for £1! I pulled one book off the shelf, but had to put it back. I couldn’t join in with the gleeful stripping of shelves, not just then, when it was all a bit raw and painful. No doubt though I shall be back before the last day, sad at heart and basket in hand.


Kit Courteney said...

I've only been there once - I rarely go into London (which is mad as I live in Essex) unless I REALLY have to as I am useless at directions/tubes/crowds/falling over and dropping my keys/getting the wrong flipping train in the first place/finding a loo... you get the idea - but I loved it when I went and spent hours in there. Now I wish I'd been many times before.

Rose said...

this is terrible news. I used to work nearby and it was a little haven. I did buy books and magazines there (brilliant selection) but I could have bought more instead of buying things on the internet.

This is going to be the difficult choice we all have to make in the future, pay more for a book in a bookshop or pay less on the internet but lose bookshops forever- an almost unbearable idea.

i miss working near there and being out of touch- i can't imagine if I'd walked past and the shop was just gone- I would have been open mouthed. So thank you.

Jayne said...

Hello Kit! It was a nice break from the madness of Oxford St. I now feel I should patronise the book shops of Charing Cross Road in case they too disappear, and buy more books regardless of the ones piling up that I still haven't got around to reading!

Jayne said...

Hello Rose! Yes that is a very good point - buying books cheaply online, or keeping book shops alive and paying a little extra. I'm always in and out of second-hand book shops, as upwards of £7.99 for a book always felt a bit of a stretch. Still, seeing as I have a vested interest, I shall do my bit to keep book shops going!