Usually when University students think about bookstores, Borders Books and Music on Liberty Street is not the first that comes to mind. With their backpacks, dorm rooms and poor brains overrun with thick, hardcover volumes of course textbooks, it’s easy to understand why. Students must make that dreaded book run to textbook stores at the beginning of every semester and stand in lines worthy of Cedar Point at Shaman Drum or Ulrich’s only to drop $400 on reminders of how little sleep they’ll get for the next four months. Given this unfortunate reality of other area bookstores, it really should come as no surprise readers chose Borders as their favorite.
Though it’s now a nationwide chain and partnered with Amazon.com, the one of the web’s largest retailers, Borders began in 1971 as an independent store right there on Liberty Street. Even today, the store maintains many aspects of its unique history. Though it is a full-sized bookstore – complete with a coffee-shop and couches – Borders does not immediately overwhelm as a warehouse-like suburban Barnes and Noble might.
Every book in the world seems to be within arm’s reach and, should one prove difficult to find, employees patrol every corner, seemingly elated to offer assistance. They should all be delighted to have this honor bestowed upon their store because they played a large part in earning it. Regardless of the selection of books or the amicability of ambience, good service is the most important asset a bookstore can have.
The employees and managers of the store are not permitted to make recorded comments to the media, but, upon learning of the honor, Vin Altruda, president of Borders Group U.S. said, “It is especially meaningful to receive this recognition from students because Borders got its start here on the U of M campus in 1971. Our values have not changed from those early days. We remain committed to the idea of connecting books and readers; passionate about the importance of literacy and culture; dedicated to the extraordinary power of books and committed to being a responsible neighbor and partner in communities like Ann Arbor where we live, work and do business.”
And it is this “literacy and culture” that makes Borders so special. A trip to Borders is an exercise in leisure, a conscious effort by a student to purchase reading he will enjoy. The trip itself is an experience; browsing tables of new books everyone is talking about and classics worthy of re-reading serves as an agreeable change of pace from the usual, regimented run of coursework and studying. From browsing to reading to lounging and sipping a cup of Seattle’s Best coffee, it’s easy to pass away several peaceful hours at the store and not even know it.
Needless to say, a trip to a textbook store like Michigan Book and Supply, with its winding lines, strictly scholarly selection and overall feeling of schoolwork, just does not compare.
But of course, Borders is more than just a bookstore. It is also one of the few places on campus to purchase new DVD releases and even carries most popular CD titles. Because of its well-rounded and community rather than curriculum-minded atmosphere, Borders is more of a destination, not a quick stop on the way somewhere else, as textbook stores often are. This is where area fans gathered for the long-awaited release of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” last July and it’ll be where both the faithful and fascinated will flock to garner more background once the movie based on the novel “The Da Vinci Code” is released this May. In selection, atmosphere and its fine service, Borders represents the upside of literature proudly.