Only Bookstore In Laredo, Texas, To Close

fromTPR

B. Dalton is set to close its store in Laredo, Texas, and that has ignited a debate in the border town. Kids have written letters to keep the store open. Groups have held rallies to pressure the company. Laredo could soon become the largest U.S. city without a bookstore. But with libraries, online stores and overnight delivery, is a bookstore really necessary?

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Readers in Laredo, Texas are about to lose their only bookstore. That would make Laredo one of the largest cities in the nation without a local bookseller. And we have more this morning from David Martin Davies of Texas Public Radio.

DAVID MARTIN DAVIES: The Laredo book based book club gathers once a month. Today, they're meeting in an opulent home on the north side of town. The driveway is filled with Mercedes and other luxury vehicles. Inside, the women discuss the literary arts and maybe share some local gossip.

Unidentified Woman #1: Half priced books (unintelligible).

Unidentified Woman #2: That would be ideal.

MARTIN DAVIES: A major topic is what to do about the closing of the border city's only bookstore - B. Dalton.

INSKEEP: We're going to get something. I just hope it's soon.

INSKEEP: I do, too. I do, too.

MARTIN DAVIES: B. Dalton is a small mall-based chain of bookstores owned by Barnes & Noble. When the Laredo store closes, the nearest bookstore will be 150 miles away in San Antonio. Veronica Castion(ph) is leading an effort to bring a new bookstore to the city of a quarter of a million people.

VERONICA CASTION: We really would love to have a store that has a coffee shop, an enticing children's section, merchandise for book lovers. Something like what other cities get. We love books in Laredo.

JOSE RAMIREZ: Many of us had suppressed(ph), you know, what had transpired...

MARTIN DAVIES: Today, the book club has a special guest, Jose Ramirez, the author of the book "Squint."

RAMIREZ: There's been divorce and death.

MARTIN DAVIES: "Squint" is Ramirez's memoir of growing up in Laredo with Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy. But without a bookstore, many readers in Ramirez's hometown may not be able to find his book.

RAMIREZ: I believe that Barnes & Noble has basically stigmatized the community of Laredo as being an illiterate town.

MARTIN DAVIES: Carolyn Brown, a Barnes & Nobles spokeswoman, said closing the bookstore is not a commentary on how much Laredoans love their books. The company is closing B. Daltons across the nation so it can focus on its larger, stand alone bookstores. Barnes & Noble said it wants to build one of those in Laredo, too, when they can get the right site. But that means Laredo is going to be without a bookstore for the foreseeable future.

Unidentified Woman #5: Your total's $70.01. There's your receipt.

Unidentified Man: Thank you.

MARTIN DAVIES: It's the last days of the Laredo B. Dalton, and some long time customers, like Annette Gonzales, are stopping by just to say goodbye to the store.

ANNETTE GONZALES: It's devastating. It's sad that there's going to be no full-fledged bookstore here, that we'll have to go online or be left to Target and Wal-Mart.

MARTIN DAVIES: Clive Warner shares that sentiment. He's stocking up on books today before his return home to Monterrey, Mexico, about 150 miles to the south.

CLIVE WARNER: This is horrendous, because I come over here to do my shopping for books. It means I'm going to have to go to McAllen in the future.

MARTIN DAVIES: The Liverpool native runs a small science fiction publishing house. He says the forecast is grim for many brick-and-mortar bookstores.

WARNER: Oh, they're finished. Everything's going online.

MARTIN DAVIES: And a number of industry experts seem equally pessimistic. Albert Greco is with the Institute for Publishing Research. He says blame a sour economy and changing consumer habits.

ALBERT GRECO: As ecommerce continues to grow and as more consumers buy ereaders and then buy ebooks, those two trends will have an impact, and probably a negative impact, on physical bookstores.

MARTIN DAVIES: Greco said Laredo is not alone in losing its last bookstore. Many small to midsize cities will see their bookstores close, because in the end, the one book that often matters most is the one the accountant keeps.

For NPR News, I'm David Martin Davies in San Antonio.

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