Friday, January 22, 2010

Ca ne s'use pas Vite

There is much lamentation in Laredo, Texas, as the city's last bookstore closes, leaving this city of about 250,000 without a store dedicated to pulp. And I have to wonder: Why is everyone so worried?

Truth be told, it's been more than a year since the last time I went into a bricks-and-mortar store for new books and actually bought a new book.

I'm not an illiterate slob, however, as readers of this blog will know all too well. I just have alternate sources in Sugar City -- population 1,245 -- and Rexburg -- population 26,000 or so -- both of which don't have new bookstores either.

I'm a magnet for books. I don't have to go out to find them. They find me. In the past year, we've had four huge boxes of books figuratively abandoned on our doorstep. We don't keep them all, but we keep a fair share of them.

And when I get an itch for a "new" book, I head not to the Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls, population 60,000 and 26 miles away, but to the Deseret Industries thrift store in Rexburg, which has a pretty good book selection. No, I don't often find the most recent titles, but I'm not interested in the most recent titles. In fact, I have a lot more fun poking through the stacks at the DI and other used book sources than I do wandering the sterile shelves at a new book store. It's like what Obelix says about menhirs in Obelix et Compagnie: "Quand les gens en ont un, ils n'en veulent pas d'autre. Ca ne s'use pas vite." Or, in other words, "When someone has one menhir, they don't want another one. They don't wear out very quickly."

I'm the opposite on the wanting. I always want more books. And that they don't wear out quickly is why I can afford to buy lots of books at the thrift stores, because I can get them for fifty cents, a dollar, two dollars. I'm always swimming in books. It's great.

I'm sure they have thrift stores in Laredo, Texas. And they have Internet access, undoubtedly. And if there's as much demand for books as CNN is fond of telling us whenever they recycle this story, surely someone in a town of 250,000 has enough smarts to start up -- gasp -- and independent bookstore, and not rely on the whims of chains. Or someone can start a used bookstore. Albertson, Montana, has one of the largest used book stores in the nation, and that town doesn't have much on Sugar City when it comes to population.

It can be done, folks. Laredo is ripe for an independent store. Act now and cement your audience before a chain comes back. Barnes and Noble says they closed the B. Dalton there -- which was profitable -- because they want to switch from those stores to their own megastores, one of which the chain plans to build in Laredo within the next two years. That sounds like ample time to get an independent off the ground and collect a loyal audience.

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