s-THE-LAST-BOOKSTORE-largeIf you live in Laredo, Texas, shopping for books just got a lot harder.

On January 16th, with the closing of its’ sole bookstore – a B.Dalton – the city of a quarter million people became the largest in the United States without a single bookstore.  Now anyone wanting to shop in a bricks and mortar store faces a drive of 150 miles to San Antonio.

Though the company says the store was profitable, they also told the Wall Street Journal that it doesn’t make sense to keep it open since they’ve moved on to  “large-format bookstores,” selling a broader range of merchandise, including music, videos, toys, and coffee.  I like coffee and comfy couches as much as anyone, but it leaves the book-starved citizens of Laredo out of luck.

The best that pleas from schoolchildren and a resolution from the city council that Laredo needs a bookstore has gotten?  Some interest from the major chains and the possibility that a bookstore might come to the city sometime in 2011.  But, for now, Laredo is the largest city in the U.S. without a single bookstore.

Author Julia Quinn was appalled. Here’s what she had to say about the situation:

“I heard about the last general interest bookstore closing from a link someone posted on Facebook.  (For the record, Laredo still has Christian and adult bookstores).  I read the article, and it made me think about my own habits.  I do a lot of shopping on the web, but I would estimate that I am physically inside a bookstore at least three times a week.  This is in part because I end up doing a lot of writing on my laptop in the café, but this got me thinking—why am I at the B&N café (serving Starbucks coffee) when I could be at one of three Starbucks within walking distance.  (I live in Seattle; we really do have a Starbucks on every corner.)

I realized that it was because I love being near books.  I walk through displays on my way to the café, and I browse as I’m leaving.  And it goes without saying that I buy a heck of a lot of them.

I realize that there are a lot areas in this country that are too sparsel populated to support a bookstore, but Laredo is a community of a quarter million people.  They need a bookstore!”

Sing it, sister.  So, Julia decided to launch, as she calls it, her own “little form of protest.”  So, between now and Valentine’s Day, she will send a free copy of a Julia Quinn title to the first 100 responders with a Laredo mailing address. Those wanting free books start the ball rolling by visiting the author’s Web site and completing a simple form.

What gave Julia the idea?

“I don’t really know what gave me the precise idea of sending books to people in Laredo.  It’s not like they have no access to books; there are libraries, and I know as well as anyone how to click away on amazon.com. Many Laredoans have been lobbying hard to bring a new bookstore to the city, and I wanted to show some solidarity.  I know that bookstores are scouting out locations in Laredo, but they say they couldn’t possibly open one before 2011.  If the reading community at large can shine some publicity on the situation, maybe the bookstores will work a little faster.”

Here at Sandy Central, I’m well known for bitching and moaning about the bookstores in my area – hey, they dis romance each and every one.  Still, there is no shortage of stores with comfy couches and plenty of coffee in my city and I’m in them a minimum of twice each week.  I couldn’t imagine life without the experience. So, we’re happy to help the citizens of Laredo by shining, as Julia says some publicity on the sad, sad situation.  Consider it shone.

– Sandy AAR