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Are My Local Bookstores Dead Yet?

I’ll keep this short. I want to read Roberto Bolano’s new book The Savage Detectives. Really I do. I love Latin American literature.  And Amazon says this big novel is one of the top ten novels for 2007. But there’s a small problem.  And it’s not the author’s fault.

Friday I was in Ithaca, New York. I stopped in the Cornell Store and saw that they were selling the book for the list price, $27.00. This seems like a lot of money for a book, even though it’s new and hardcover and I want it. When I got home, I found in my email box an advertisement from Amazon offering me this very book at 40% off, for $16.20. And I could get free shipping if my order totaled $25.00. How could this be? I wondered.

So I went to, my favorite used online bookseller, and I found used copies of the book beginning at $16.79 plus shipping.  In other words, the used books (probably review copies) were more expensive than the new book from Amazon delivered to my mailbox.

I want to support my local, independent bookseller.  That would be The Bookstore in Lenox, Massachusetts, which has been a community institution for more than thirty years.  I love that bookstore.  I have given readings there.  I have attended readings there.  Matthew, the owner, has good wine at readings.  He has a great selection of books.  He stocks books people love.  And he’s succeeded even though Barnes and Noble opened a store nearby.  But I digress.  I want to support my local bookseller.

But as far as Roberto Bolano’s book is concerned, is my commitment to independent bookstores worth $11? For this one book? I’d like to think it was, but frankly, I can hear padlocks snapping shut on the front doors of most independent booksellers near here. That would be a terrible.

And now that Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, etc. are approaching, and the gifting season is upon us, people who give gifts probably want to stretch their gift-giving funds.  I’m worried.  Because all of that desire to save drives people to Amazon and B&N.  And that’s is a real danger not only for my friend’s bookstore, but also for the lovely, lively, local, independent institution of bookstores generally.

Please think about this briefly before you shop. I don’t want bookstores to go the way of the small town hardware store.  

Tabasco: Still Struggling, Almost Forgotten

You’ll recall that in late October and early November the state of Tabasco in Mexico had huge floods.

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Women in Villahermosa covered their noses on Sunday because of the stench from the receding flood waters.

The flood, which was very briefly noted in the traditional media, and has faded from the traditional media.

And now there is a serious concern about an outbreak of dengue.

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