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The Future
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December 17, 2009, 11:07 PM
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From the AP:
The final chapter has been written for the lone bookstore on the streets of Laredo. [That`s Laredo, Texas, not Nuevo Laredo across the Rio Grande in Mexico.]

With a population of nearly a quarter-million people, this city could soon be the largest in the nation without a single bookseller.

The situation is so grim that schoolchildren have pleaded for a reprieve from next month`s planned shutdown of the B. Dalton bookstore. After that, the nearest store will be 150 miles away in San Antonio.

The B. Dalton store was never a community destination with comfy couches and an espresso bar, but its closing will create a literary void in a city with a high illiteracy rate. Industry analysts and book associations could not name a larger American city without a single bookseller.

"Corporate America considers Laredo kind of the backwater," said the city`s most prolific author, Jerry Thompson, a professor at Texas A&M University International who has written more than 20 books.

Since the closing was announced, book lovers in Laredo have flocked to the small store located between City Trendz ("Laredo`s No. 1 Underground Hip Hop Shop") and a store that offers $4 indoor go-kart rides to stock up on their favorite titles.

I`m sure the local Wal-Mart sells bestsellers as well. And there`s Amazon.com.

Still, I probably spend a couple of hours per week in my local bookstore, a big Barnes & Noble that fills what used to be the local movie theater. It`s not necessary to my life, but it`s certainly a civilized amenity.

The future doesn`t look terribly apocalyptic to me. In fact, it probably won`t even be worse than the present, mostly due to the beneficent workings of Moore`s Law. But the opportunity cost ...