It took me a good chunk of my life to figure out that I really prefer coffee shops to the privacy of my study. Sure, at home I have convenience, my complete library, my choice of beverage, convenient WiFi.
Ah, but there you have it, right? At my neighborhood coffee shop I have choice of beverage and convenient Wifi. More anD more of my library, one way or another is in the cloud. And as for convenience--why, it's convenient to take a bit of bike ride, not so?
And the deal-maker: if I stay home, I am out of the action. Elephants might go parading down Main Street, and I would never know! If I'm right there on Main Street, I can join the throng.
I think the tipping point for me may have been the Fall of 1993 when I did a gig at Penn Law School. The nice folks at Penn found me a commodious studio apartment right Rittenhouse Square, clean and furnished, and at a price not much more than pocket change, probably less than it would have cost me at home in Palookaville.
Until then, I had never heard of Borders. But on my first venture out of my cozy flat (probably about 20 minutes after I moved in), I found one,m just around the corner.* And boy, was I ever hooked. I already had a long history with "real" bookstores, of course--Cody's in Berkeley@ and Collet's in Charing Cross Road.,^ that sort of thing. But for every day, I was one of those who had to suffer the indignity of places like Waldenbooks.# But as a bona fide mainstream, mass market bookstore, this was a revalation.
And the coffee shop. Man, I can only infer that Philly must have been seriously under-coffee-shopped, then if not always, because the Borders venue was packed to overflowing every single time was in there, all through my four month stay. Not that I objected: as far as I am concerned, this is exactly what a bookstore is about.
I've been in lots of Borders since: Cleveland, DC, Manhattan (World Trade Center 1996, one of the best), London, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, others I'm sure I've forgotten. I've had only one shot out from under me.
But you know where this is going. This time, it looks like it's all over.
*The address is 1727 Walnut. Google maps still recognizes it, but from a look at street view, I think maybe it is now a Barnes & Noble.
#A subsidiary of Borders, now in liquidation.