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Letters From The Editor: On the border of a cultural shift

July 29, 2011|By John Canalis

I spent a recent lunch break at Borders, which is writing its final chapter — 11.

As someone who still reads books that don't require batteries, I headed down to the clearance sale at the South Coast Plaza location with a lot of optimism, a little cash and a head filled with nostalgia for childhood weekends spent in bookstores with my dad.

I was too late. It was like showing up to a garage sale at noon. The tidy store had been picked over more times than the bacon bits bin at a salad bar.

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Led Zeppelin's "Gallows Pole" played rather appropriately as shoppers leafed through shelves of books, magazines, compact discs, DVDs and other antiquities.

I zipped through the remaining entries in popular music, unable to find a disc I wanted, even at 20% off.

I headed downstairs to the magazine rack, eager to discover distractions for an upcoming weekender.

Every magazine I like to read seemed to be gone. I either have good taste or narrow interests.

Finally, I stumbled on Rolling Stone's summer double issue, which featured Katy Perry on the cover dressed as a Hershey's Kiss (apparently a bubble gum wrapper wasn't available). At 40% off $5.99, the magazine seemed like a steal.

Then I peered at the line for the cash register. It was 40% too long. Lines of people held onto their bundles of books as if they were saving them from the fires. Workers were ringing up enough in sales taxes to solve Costa Mesa's budget crisis.

I calculated the value of my time against the $2.40 I'd save. I am not sure if it was the line or the somber employees about to lose their jobs that I didn't want to face, but I put the magazine back and walked back into the mall.

On my way to the car, I passed the Apple Store, which buzzed with people dying to overpay for tablets, phones and other gadgets that do what Borders once did: Deliver books, videos and music. A fitting epilogue.

JOHN CANALIS is editor of the Daily Pilot, Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot and Huntington Beach Independent. He can be reached at (714) 966-4607 and john.canalis@latimes.com.

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