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The final chapter on book stores?

Customers head inBorders Friday July 22 2011 HighlInd. Borders is liquidating it's inventory  is preparing go out business by

Customers head into Borders Friday, July 22, 2011, in Highland, Ind. Borders is liquidating it's inventory and is preparing to go out of business by the end of September. | Scott M. Bort~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 2, 2011 2:50AM



Book superstores Borders and Barnes & Noble chains are victims of the fast-moving digital revolution where ereaders are making hardbound books obsolete.

For some, the only reading they do involves Facebook.

Borders Group Inc.’s bankruptcy filing didn’t surprise Ken Vanderlugt, the owner of Remarkable Books, an independent store in Merrillville.

“Books will not disappear, but book stores will,” Vanderlugt said. “In the future, they won’t be a part of people’s lives like they have for the past 500 years.”

It’s been more than 570 years since Johannes Gutenberg was credited with inverting the printing press that relied on movable type. It took just a few years for the iPad, Kindle and a platoon of other digital tablets and ereaders to shutter book stores.

“It’s not a fad. It’s irreversible,” Vanderlugt said. “Bookstores are like the buggymakers of the 1900s when cars came in. That’s the way it is, no amount of complaining will change that.”

Borders closed its store in Westfield Southlake Mall in Hobart shortly after it announced its Chapter 11 filing in February. Its Highland store is now liquidating its merchandise. No closing date has been announced, although the chain said it plans to close all its remaining 399 stores by September.

Meanwhile, signs point to a new occupant in Borders’ Southlake site. Books-A-Million Inc., an Alabama-based chain, is working a deal with Borders to purchase 35 stores, Borders lawyers said in New York bankruptcy court last week.

Westfield Southlake Mall’s website posted an announcement recently saying Books-a-Million would open late this summer. It’s the third-largest book retailer in the U.S. with 200 stores in 23 states, primarily in the southeast.

Still, the demise of book stores is dismaying to readers, like Hobart’s Rachel Conn, 24, who grew up with J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series.

“At this rate, America will be a country of unimaginative, uninformed illiterates. Texting and email have slaughtered our language, the last thing we need is less access to books,” said Conn, herself a member of the texting generation.

A senior at Purdue University Calumet, Conn says she doesn’t own an ereader and doesn’t want one. “I like books,” she said. “You don’t have to worry about a power supply.”

Public libraries have already joined the digital movement, allowing patrons to check out ebooks just like the hardbound copies.

“We provide resources to downloadable ebooks and we pay for access, they use a card number, just like a library book and they get it for two weeks, just like a book,” said Phil Baugher, director of the Westchester Public Library in Chesterton.

Baugher said his library’s fiction and non-fiction collection hasn’t shrunk but his reference books have dwindled.

The disappearance of book stores isn’t surprising to Baugher.

“People have changed what they do in their recreation time, they’re turning to other media. We’re concerned with information content — not the format. For us, the information is important.”

Yet, there’s a longing for the bound book.

“There’s still that magic of holding a book and turning the pages that’s not replicated on a Kindle,” he said.



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