Books could be in trouble. We just aren't reading them like we used to. Kanye West, the self-proclaimed voice of the current young adult generation, is also a self-proclaimed "non-reader of books." There are more and more television programs every year. Everybody loves movies. Even video games are finally becoming accepted as a story-telling format worthy of critical praise in their own right. How can we expect anyone find the time for books anymore? And anyway, whenever a book becomes popular enough to merit more than a few recommendations between friends, its movie adaptation is not far behind. Back in middle school, a friend of mine was reading the classic Lord of the Rings trilogy. He stopped halfway through the first one. His reason? He didn't want the upcoming movie trilogy to be spoiled for him.

Even those of us reading books don't need to buy them. Thanks to sites like Project Gutenberg we can easily find all kinds of classic and contemporary novels, for free, online. The public library, while no longer in vogue, is also always an Internet-free option. And books, far more than DVDs or video games, are frequently passed around and given away upon completion. "You haven't read that book yet? I finished it yesterday; you can have my copy."

So in a world where book-readers are diminishing in number and book-buying seems unnecessary, how does Borders thrive? On a very small but key demographic: the upper class. Books have been rebranded as luxury items. Reading, while always a hobby that leaned toward intellectuals, has now more than ever become the hip thing to do if you've got a degree and plenty of time. And why not? The ability to leisurely read a book is a status symbol in and of itself. It says, "I have both the money to spend on something that is otherwise free, and also the free time to read something for several hours." The fact that bookstores such as Borders now sell coffee, thus prompting customers to "sit back and stay a while" only furthers the image of the modern book-reader as an upscale individual. Blue collar America lacks the sophistication to enjoy books, the money to buy them, and the time to read them, the mentality is.

And that mentality is how Borders stays in business. Call it nothing more than a stereotype that book-buyers are college-educated, liberal-minded, and hoity toity. But ask yourself, is this not the exact image of the customers bookstores strive for? The coffee shop youth? The saviors of Darfur and Tibet? Adults without children? The exception, of course, is when an enormous fad is made over a teen-oriented book series. At these times, Borders will rebrand itself momentarily as "Your Neighborhood Harry Potter Headquarters" or "The Go-To Place For Everything Twilight." But hey, that's just business.

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