It’s sad to see that the downtown Borders bookstore here in Louisville is closing, having fallen victim to the bankruptcy of the parent company. I’ve previously written about the shrinkage of bookstores, but the end appears to be coming sooner than I expected. Of course the root causes are easy to identify: alternative forms of entertainment, e-books, Amazon.com, and a decreasing educational level overall. I have to admit that I read books on my Android phone, and am thinking about getting a Kindle or iPad. I have bought lots of books on Amazon. So I have to take some blame myself for this sad phenomenon. In their heyday, there was nothing more cozy or comforting than a large Borders or Barnes and Noble (or Tattered Cover in Denver) chock full of titles to explore leisurely. It was fun to pick out a book based on its cover (yes I sometimes do judge a book by its cover), the short blurb on the back, and reading the first few pages of the first chapter. I remember I got hooked into reading the George RR Martin “Song of Fire and Ice” series in this way when I was in a Borders in New Orleans, browsing through the fantasy titles. I might have picked out a different book that day and spared myself several million words of text over the next few years, with about 20 convoluted plot lines and untold number of characters, but I didn’t and I am still looking forward to the next book in the series, whenever Mr. Martin gets around to finishing it. But now these bookstores have become hollow shells of their former selves, their inventories reduced, with large open spaces appearing where there were once bookshelves, and knickknacks for sale instead of books. Barnes and Noble still seems fairly robust, though there are ominous signs there as well, with their Barnes and Noble editions of the classics pushing out the better Oxford and Penguin editions, and the increasingly large area of the store devoted to selling the Nook e-reader. Just like my favorite CD store, Tower Records, which vanished off the Earth several years ago, I can see the end of the mega-bookstores coming, and it saddens me.