The Future
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 ...