December 17, 2009

The future

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 ...

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

87 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hereby propose Sailer's Law: culture degrades at a rate proportional to the rate of technological advancement.

Corollary: culture degrades exponentially.

Anonymous said...

The "opportunity cost" that you speak of - we've been paying that for decades. We're moving on to the next stage, here. Perhaps apocalyptic is too strong a word, but still ...you're in a time warp, Steve. Buy canned foods and gold.

Middletown Girl said...

What I miss are the used book stores. They still exist next to major universities, but most of them are gone thanks to the internet.

Borders and Barnes are good book stores but they carry obvious, most popular titles. Not very fun for browsing.

I wonder what will happen to libraries. People don't seem to be checking out books anymore.

Anonymous said...

This is what shocked me most about my Peace Corps gig in the Caribbean: there are entire countries, to say nothing of cities, that have no bookstores. St. Lucia had one store that could charitably be called a news stand, but you couldn't find a foreign paper or best seller there if you tried.

"In fact, it probably won't even be worse than the present, mostly due to the beneficent workings of Moore's Law."

Hmm, gotta disagree with you there. What scares the hell out of me as a software developer is bots and knowing that someone, somewhere is developing a relatively cheap and lethally effective army of robots.

Nanonymous said...

Compare: I live in a city that is about 10% smaller than Laredo. Without thinking, I can name 7 bookstores and in Yellow Pages I counted 20 after going only 1/3 though the section. So at least 50 bookstores.

The difference? Demographics.

Benjamin Franklin said...

This is an unusually unclearly argued post for Steve. The argument seems to be that "Laredo doesn't have a bookstore, so in the future there won't be a bookstore where you live too!" That simply doesn't follow. The area where I live already has lots of things Laredo hasn't.

I have no problem believing that centuries from now we will be downloading books directly into electronic readers, though I hope someone figures out how to duplicate the browsing process. Today, and in the near future, online booksellers depend on a robust public and private postal delivery system. Living in a place where UPS won't deliver at all, and where the local post office didn't deliver my mail for four months because apparently they didn't feel like it, I'm not so sure. There is no law that says technology will always approve.

Anonymous said...

It's not just in Laredo. Economic hard times, increased internet bandwidth, Amazon, and immigration fueled illiteracy have eliminated about half of the booksellers in Berkeley, CA, including Cody's and Black Oak Books, which used to be required stops for all NYT bestselling authors flogging their latest oeuvre. I once heard Joyce Carol Oates at Cody's refer to Berkeley as the "Center of Everything."It's kind of sad, really, walking past so many of these shuttered reading establishments where I spent so many hours of my life in the last decade and a half.

Oh well, in a few billion years or so the Sun will puff up into a red giant and swallow the Solar System.

Anonymous said...

I moved to the Pacific NW because it's about the most literate area of the country.

Basically the polar opposite, on this dimension, of Laredo.

Jim Bowery said...

Looking at this climate change conference noise, it seems apparent that if there is a serious threat from artificial global warming, the powers that be are going to lard their global ambitions upon it to the point that there is no hope of it being solved.

So, being an artificial global warming agnostic, I accept the possibility of a catastrophic near-future (next hundred years).

Thrasymachus said...

Retail is tough everywhere. And the mall bookstore is obsolete, just as the mall toy store is obsolete, and for the same reasons. A B. Dalton sells a wider selection of books than a Wal-Mart or Target- but not a much wider selection, and not at better prices, or convenience in location and store hours. Hell the big box stores gave the knife pretty good to Toys 'R' Us, to say nothing of Kay Bee.

Laredo is only the extreme example of this- it's happening in plenty of places that aren't poor, grim and Spanish-speaking.

Skip G. said...

I live in a small Midwestern town, and the city council recently closed the city library because it was "too expensive" to operate, and used the money they saved to purchase new Porta-Potties.
Now THAT'S a trend!

Anonymous said...

"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 ..."



I'd take that right now and not even play the game if I could get it.

Dan said...

Steve,

It seems to be news today that in 20 years white children will be a minority. The CBS radio newsreader had the temerity to say, "What will the minority be called when it is the majority?"

To which I would respond, "What do they call them in Texas and many other Southwest towns?"

Our culture is changing. Actually, it has changed quite a bit since we were kids. Just as it changed quite a bit from the time our parents were kids. So I don't know if we have the right to bemoan this change or just accept that the things we value are not considered as worthy by those who come after us.

Brent Lane said...

Ah yes, there are no more bookstores in Laredo because 'corporate America considers it a backwater'.

Could it be that 'corporate America' no longer considers selling books to Laredo's population a profitable enterprise? Or perhaps 'corporate America' is deliberately eschewing profits in the name of discrimination against Laredo's largest demographic group?

Oh, bang the drum slowly and play the fife lowly. . .

Robert said...

It is a shame that there aren't local small book stores to fill the void. That is the problem, big coporations who do not get a vast profit out keeping the Laredo bookstore open. A small mom and pop bookstore could make a go of it on a place without a bookstore for 150 miles. Especially if they carry Spanish titles.

Anonymous said...

Seems strange, then take a look around elsewhere and compare. Here in Chicago, a city of about 2.83 million, there's nary a bookstore in any black or hispanic area. All real bookstores are in the white areas or places that serve a predominantly white clientele. The exceptions might be small religious stores, crackpot black power stores and looney left joints (run by whites). The quarter million people of Laredo don't support a bookstore? About two million people in Chicago don't support any bookstores either. Chicago is really three, four cities that happen to abut one another. We are geographically connected, but culturally we're separate countries.

Anonymous said...

AP neglects to mention that Webb County is 94 percent Latino.

Anonymous said...

As I walked out in the streets of Laredo,

As I walked out in Laredo one day,

I spied a young cowboy, all wrapped in white linen,

Wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay...

Anonymous said...

The first bookstore I saw in my life that looked like it was making a profit? The Elliot Bay bookstore in Seattle. It had a little restaurant downstairs- high-priced Alfalfa sandwiches kind of place. Some people like books.
A lot of people like the civilized amenity of having books around them as they eat, screw, etc.

Lawful Neutral said...

Has nobody heard of a library?

Also, like you said Steve, there's always Amazon. Oh no, these poor Laredans will be forced to deal with a much wider selection and slightly lower prices! I don't think I've bought a book from a brick-and-mortar store in over a year, and I really don't miss it.

wake up said...

what's the bond rating going to be on this new mestizo america steve?

bookstore scarcity in laredo reminds me of the anecdote (vdare maybe?) from someone who rode a train all the way down through mexico: trip completed without seeing a single native mexican reading a book in public.

california last had a aaa bond rating in 1986......... that was the year of the Reagan Amnesty.... wake up..... california will never again get a aaa (even an adulterated aaa by the modern corrupted credit rating agencies)......

america as the shining city on a hill? nope.......it's all downhill from here folks to the new hard depressing reality.... meaning first mediterranean style economics (shaky) such as found in greece italy spain ...... and in about two or three more decades that will morph into full blown latin american economics (junk bond rated) ......

crappy bond ratings reflect a chronically weak economy and a wrecked social fabric..... top 5% of the society gets filthy rich and lives behind gigantic walls on lavish security compounds......most everyone else gets economically shafted in perpetuity so that succeeding generations are systematically disowned of assets....

never forget that this transformation process was no accident....... our corrupted elites (de-americanized internationalized and globalized) wanted this outcome....

Anonymous said...

I think the future is going to be a lot worse. You are not looking around. Most banks are insolvant and can keep their doors open only as long as cash flow allows. On fundemantals the real estate security they took is worth less than half their obligations, they are gone. Social security and Medicare are ponzi schemes with no hope of working beyond a few more years. Municipal and state pension plans are underfunded and the funding states/municipalities are broke. Why would you think that something is going to be coming down the road that fixes obligations that cannot be met, loans that will never be repaid and an ainti-capitalist governing class?

Mr. Anon said...

And why in Laredo of all places? What has finally caused the demand for books to plummet? What could it be?

I'm stumped.

Anonymous said...

Leftist interpretation:

No wonder they're illiterate! They don't have any bookstores!

Dave R. said...

Box book stores have always competed indirectly against public libraries (the Laredo, Texas public library's website says they're open 7 days a week), and now they've got a deep discount supplier to compete against directly in the form of Amazon. Add in the internet itself, and I think literary access is actually increasing in absolute terms. Its just the business model that's obsolete.

Udolpho.com said...

literature has been on life support for a long time...the fiction that is successful is all branded middlebrow stuff, or boutique crap...movies are headed that way too...welcome to Idiocracy

anony-mouse said...

1/ I assume they have libraries.

2/ e-readers are here and will eventually get cheaper-then all book stores will go the way of record stores (yes I know some stores still sell vinyl...)

kurt9 said...

I noticed in passing through Atlanta's airport (2nd largest in the country) that there is only one bookshop in the whole airport, and that is in the international terminal. So, it appears that it is not only the Hispanic immigrants who choose not to read.

I actually believe the future will be quite bright for those who actually seize the opportunity to self-create. DIY biology and, eventually, nanotechnology will allow for small, self-interested groups to create whatever industrial and technological infrastructure they want in order to create whatever future they want for themselves. Indeed, we have the beginnings of this today. I can outsource the production of probably 90% of any manufactured good to any number of factories in China that I can find through the internet or my personal contact over there. I can find chemical companies in both China and India that can synthesize virtually any organic compound that I want. Perhaps the instrumentation will allow for DIY researchers to develop some of the SENS therapies for curing aging, completely bypassing the conventional medical industry.

I think Patri Friedman is correct in describing the real conflict in this world is between decentralized technological innovation and centralized political forces.

Anonymous said...

As a non-fiction fan, I find Bittorrent to be the best deal in town.

Anonymous said...

Sailer, u racist bastage!!

[sarcasmo]

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the local Wal-Mart sells bestsellers as well. And there's Amazon.com.

Not to mention the public library.

Doug said...

literature has been on life support for a long time...the fiction that is successful is all branded middlebrow stuff, or boutique crap...movies are headed that way too...welcome to Idiocracy

Movies have been that way for a while....look at Whit Stillman's stuff....lightweights take middlebrow crap movies like Metropolitan seriously

Maine said...

I think Patri Friedman is correct in describing the real conflict in this world is between decentralized technological innovation and centralized political forces.

This has always been the "real conflict." The major problem is that without new, expanding, perpetual frontiers, centralized political forces always eventually catch up and swallow everything up. We've run out of the vast frontiers that were the New World. The only possible ones I can envisage now are ocean seasteads or outer space, but these may take a very long time to be opened up by enterprising frontiersmen free from centralized political power.

Xenophon Hendrix said...

I live in a rural area. The nearest bookstore is about 25 miles away. The nearest library is about ten miles away, but it is tiny. The nearest library that isn't tiny--it's not big, but it isn't tiny--is also about 25 miles away. I have no trouble at all getting books.

First, most books that are both reasonably famous and out of copyright are available on the Internet. Anyone who wants to read Great Books has more than a lifetime of reading material available for free.

Second, there is Amazon. If it's in print, Amazon probably has it. If it's out of print, there is still a good chance that Amazon has it.

Third, the relatively nearby library is tiny, but coupled with Interlibrary Loan it is a powerful resource. I can go on the county library website, describe what I want, and have it sent to the nearby library.

Fourth, if one is interested in amateur writing, the Web is a paradise. Many people, uncontrolled by gatekeepers, are publishing what is on their minds, both fiction and nonfiction. Much--most-- of the work is unpolished, but is a fascinating window on what the literate public thinks about.

True, the Internet lacks the pleasure of wandering the stacks of a library or the aisles of a large bookstore. When I was younger, it was one of the top ten gratifications of my life. It is also an inefficient way of finding books, and browsing for books electronically is also quite enjoyable.

Consider reading a book and liking it. Within a couple of minutes, Amazon has a good chance of telling one everything else that author has written. To make doubly sure, one can crosscheck the information with a Google search or Wikipedia.

Suppose one reads a nonfiction book and finds it interesting. It is now relatively easy to lookup works from its bibliography on Amazon, Google, and Wikipedia. Amazon even has a feature that lists books cited by a given book or books that site a given book.

If one has a topic one wants to look up, it is faster than ever before. Google, these days, often turns up books when one does a key-word search. One can do a subject search on Amazon. I have done subject searches on the Library of Congress website, and the local county library has had its card catalog online for years. One can also look up a topic on Wikipedia, and the cited references often lead one to books on a subject.

If one wants more personalized recommendations, websites or web forums dedicated to a topic often recommend books on the subject. Frequently, they have reviews. This works for both fiction and nonfiction. There are sites dedicated to science fiction, for example.

In general, it is now fairly easy to find reviews of a book. Type the title, in quotation marks, into Google and add the key word "review." Of course, Amazon has customer reviews, and readers can add reviews to sites such as Goodreads. (Goodreads, by the way, is a lot of fun to browse around.) Summaries of reasonably famous books often are available on Wikipedia.

Personally, I think reading material is more available than ever before, and it is easier to find good books and avoid bad ones. It's the story that has being going on now for a few decades: the electronic/information/communications revolution is making smart people functionally smarter and widening the gap between the smart and the less than smart.

PS: Adjusting for race, are people really reading less now than they did twenty years ago? Personally, I don't see it. I think, but don't assert, that there was a big change when television became widely available, but since then the amount of reading has remained relatively stable. (The mix of books, articles, fiction, and nonfiction probably has changed.) When I look at my niblings, three out of the four are heavy readers, and the time they spend playing computer and video games comes out of the time the young people of my generation spent watching television. That's a good thing, I think.

Graham Asher said...

If people won't keep bookshops going by buying books from them, they deserve to fold. I don't want anyone pilfering from my wallet to keep bookshops open, thank you. The same goes for any other business (banks, steel mills, coal mines, anything). I love books, and I love bookshops, especially second-hand bookshops, but I want them to stand on their own feet, and I don't want to benefit from anyone subsidising my tastes.

jimbo said...

I remember in "Desperado", (Robert Rodriguez's first "hollywood" movie after his $7000 "El Mariachi"), one of the jokes was that the Selma Hayek character was running a bookstore in a small Mexican town which was the safest place in town for the main character to hideout after a gunfight, since no one ever came in there...

John Mansfield said...

Here's a contrasting case for you. I live near Gaithersburg, Maryland, which has about 60,000 people, a fifth of them hispanic. All of Montgomery County was almost a million people, a tenth hispanic. The old historic downtown part of Gaithersburg has become very hispanic. Among the bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants, and bars serving that clientele, there is a little bookstore, Libreria Diamante.

Simon said...

I remember being in Nashville and being amazed how many more bookstores there were there than here in London. Huge, cavernous places. I saw some uniformed cops browsing in one. My neighbourhood and the adjacent ones have none.

Anonymous said...

The other phenomena which I guess one might call the flip side of disappearing bookshops is the transformation of libraries into homeless shelters. The SF Library has restrooms even more disgusting than an Asbury Park, NJ, public beach changing room. The librarians are so afraid of contagion that they where face masks and rubber gloves. And across the bay, public libraries have become drop off day care centers for the kids of illegal Mexicans and poor blacks. The kids either surf the internet or talk loudly among themselves while eating McDonalds hamburgers out of greasy paper sacks. Here, the librarians never bother enforcing rules. It's just a matter of time before sexual assaults in the stacks become yet another social issue in our Latino immigration transformed society.

Dutch Boy said...

Somewhere between 80-90% of chain bookstore offerings are junk that no one should waste his time or money on anyway.

David said...

How delightful to have a coffee and scone while sampling interesting new and old books. But something tells me the bookstore is making more money off the eats than off Literature. (Although I do buy the books sometimes.)

But, isn't that the way of things since the crack of time? John Ruskin once said

> Generally, good, useful work, whether of the hand or head, is either ill-paid, or not paid at all. I don't say it should be so, but it always is so. People, as a rule, only pay for being amused or being cheated, not for being served. [...] None of the best head work in art, literature, or science, is ever paid for. How much do you think Homer got for his Iliad? or Dante for his Paradise? only bitter bread and salt, and going up and down other people's stairs. In science, the man who discovered the telescope, and first saw heaven, was paid with a dungeon; the man who invented the microscope, and first saw earth, died of starvation, driven from his home <

There was a bubble last century when this wasn't uniformly true, but the bubble has burst, and now art and science will have to be carried on, again, outside the marketplace - by private individuals, by amateurs, by those who love the work and its subject ("amateur" is another word for lover) and not hucksters seeking tenure, a political post, or Profit with a Capital P.

Books will probably go back to being something found only in private libraries, with all serious contemporary literature only samizdat. The net is one portent of this.

As readership dwindles, a massive marketplace for books dwindles; as the government waxes larger and more corrupt, a healthy society and the national literary life that goes with it wanes.

The future, in short, is dim for the collective, the masses, but it might be fine for the few individuals with smarts. Just ask Homer. And pass the scone.

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form said...

"Oh no, these poor Laredans will be forced to deal with a much wider selection and slightly lower prices!"

Are poor Laredans literate enough to figure out how to order online?

At least in a bookstore, the clerk can lead you to some easy-to-read titles and tell you how much it costs and give you your book and your change.

Peter A said...

Not surprisingly, it's very hard to find a good Spanish language book store in Mexico. Mexico City has a few decent ones, but that's a city of 20 million people.

And I'm probably a snob, but I don't really consider B. Dalton's a "book store." It's a mall outlet that flogs best sellers and romance trash.

Half Sigma said...

One can probably judge the crapiness of a city by the absence of bookstores. Maybe even more valid than Paul Fussell's bowling alley test (the more bowling alleys, the lower class the city).

Anonymous said...

We've run out of the vast frontiers that were the New World. The only possible ones I can envisage now...

A few weeks ago, purely by accident, I found myself in Lexington, Virginia, and stumbled upon possibly the best restaurant meal I have ever had in my life.

I doubt that Komment Kontrol will allow me to say any more than that.

But it was purely by accident.

What a strange, strange coincidence.

Really weird.

albertosaurus said...

Illiteracy isn't new. Especially among the the non-white.

I remember when I was in graduate school I won a fellowship from the Mellon people. They were sponsoring projects to improve government in Washington D.C.

I was tasked with developing a regression model of census data for the National Capitol Planning Commission. When we met ever so often no one wanted to talk about my project, so I heard a lot about the other guy's projects. One poor bastard had to increase the number of DC residents who used the public library.

The DC public library had been an old Carnegie library. It had recently been replaced by a new building designed by Mise van der Rohe ("less is more"). It was built at federal expense. Good thing that as it was the most expensive public building in America at the time. It looked like the first five floors of the Seagrams building - very Bauhaus, very austere, very expensive.

The problem was that it was always empty. Actually I liked that. I lived in Washington D.C. and so I had this huge modern library essentially for my personal use.

After some study the guy who had the library project proposed to show movies in the library's basement. I pointed out that the nearby downtown movie palaces that had been built in the thirties were also crumbling and abandonned. Suburban libraries were very busy as were suburban movie houses.

I humbly suggested that the library building be used as a library - again showing my naivete. Or I suggested that we could sell it and give the money back to the tax payers.

Later the new San Francisco central public library solved this problem with a novel approach for a library - no books. The new downtown library has been used as a movie location, it houses a number of permanent exhibits about politically correct issues, it has a lot of Internet connected computers too. What it doesn't have are books.

You can't browse through the stacks because the stacks are in a nearby underground warehouse. You look up the book you think you want on the Web and then send for it at the main desk. A runner fetches it and brings it back to the main desk. The whole library experience is a lot like an appointment at the DMV.

A. Nonny said...

What is a good source that breaks down U.S. Spanish-speaking demographics by region and age cohort?

Some of the large school districts note how many kids come from Spanish-speaking households, but I have not found any national figures.

Big Bill said...

@Benjamin Franklin:
"living in an area where ... the post office didn't delivery my mail for four months ... ."

I'm tellin ya, Ben, you can kiss off living in Philly ... and don't even think of moving to Balmer.

Reg C├Žsar said...

Grand Rapids is slightly smaller than Laredo, and has an independent bookstore, Schuler's, which is as impressive as any B&N or Borders I've seen, as far as amenities goes. That's rather amazing in this business, especially in the Michigan economy.

St Paul is slightly larger than Laredo (though with larger twin, and loads of suburbs). It was considered scandalous when the city's last independent bookshop closed, even though there were both Borders and B&N. So Garrison Keillor dug into his pocket and opened his own, in the basement of a historic arcade. I imagine he's subsidizing it to some extent.

One thing the article didn't make clear was whether they were talking about used books as well as new ones. Half Price Books is based in Texas; you'd think they'd have an outlet in Laredo. If so, I don't feel quite as sorry for them.

kurt9 said...

The major problem is that without new, expanding, perpetual frontiers, centralized political forces always eventually catch up and swallow everything up. We've run out of the vast frontiers that were the New World.

This sum up the problem that I have with many "conservatives". I believe in dynamism. Many "conservatives" actually believe in stasis, much like the liberal-left. Thus, instead of solving the problem, they actually end up contributing to it.

Middletown Girl said...

What I really miss are the second-run movie houses. Cable and video stores killed all that. I'll watch a Hollywood movie at a theater for $2, not $10.

Now, stuff like netflix is killing all the video rental stores. And music downloads destroyed Tower Records, a truly fun place to hang around.

CD sections at bookstores have shrunk, and you don't see anyone buying anything except maybe as gifts.

And anyone notice that most titles in the movie/music section at book stores--even big ones like Borders or Barnes--are pretty lame? It's so generic, packed with stuff by Roger Ebert and David Thomson. It's more for display or filling-shelf-space than a selection of interesting titles.

klaos said...

Steve, with all due respect, you live in LA.

California is bankrupt.
LA is bankrupt.
Mexico is in a classic 3rd world civil war.

Admit it, the future (in LA) is going to be catastrophic.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of Americans don't understand that our historical culture has always been unusually literate. Other Western European and Western European-derived cultures are kept bookish by force - publishing is state supported, even bookstores are state supported. There is a established method of providing novelists and poets with an income via sinecures in civil and diplomatic service. The elites in these countries have used the power of central control of the economy to impose cultural values that are, in reality, quite alien to the masses.

When I lived in Spain, I was regularly physically attacked for reading in public - people would kick me and throw things at me if I read on public transportation. If you observe, say French people, or upper middle class Colombians, or other Western European or -derived people who end up raising their children in the States, or in Saudi Arabia, or in Indonesia, you will see that outside of the cultural pressure cooker created by their ministries of culture, there is no intrinsic drive to re-create a bookish family culture.

Americans' bookishness is bottom-up, not top-down. One of the major reasons people started homeschooling in huge numbers, for example, was the change in reading instruction methods from phonics to whole language. People knew this was *changing the culture,* destroying the foundations for the shared love of literature that not only binds us together as a people but was so necessary and effective at drawing in the 19th and early 20th century European immigrants.

If you can really get a Berkeley liberal to face up to the fact that the people they are allowing to take over beautiful California don't read and never will, you have done quite a large thing.

jody said...

as far as mestizos and american indians go, i think the whole

"they really don't read anything or inform themselves, and are sort of illiterate anyway"

thing was presaged even before the web was mainstream, by declining newspaper readership in cities that were turning mestizo. i'm not so sure the internet completely explains the phenomenon of disappearing bookshops in towns going mexican.

i've travelled in mexico, outside of the tourist areas, and mexico pretty much sucks, but it's not a total disaster area like much of the third world. mexicanized cities won't be like africanized ones. they'll just be dumps where nothing important happens.

Anonymous said...

"One can probably judge the crapiness of a city by the absence of bookstores. Maybe even more valid than Paul Fussell's bowling alley test (the more bowling alleys, the lower class the city)."

Too simplistic.

Bowling alleys in a city are a sign of a healthy white and African American working class. Bodega's and dance clubs are usually a sign that all the white folks have left, the blacks are out of work and on the dole, manufacturing has fled over seas, and Latinos have settled a permanent outpost of Aztlan.

Conversely, the presence of a white working class implies continued social mobility, facilitated by libraries, schools, and yes, book stores.

ben tillman said...

AP neglects to mention that Webb County is 94 percent Latino.

I doubt it has any Latinos. Lots of Mexicans, though.

Middletown Girl said...

"When I lived in Spain, I was regularly physically attacked for reading in public - people would kick me and throw things at me if I read on public transportation."

You gotta be shittin' me. Maybe they attacked you for reading the WRONG kind of book than for reading a book.
Imagine what Israelis might do if they saw you reading Mein Kampf on a bus. Or, what Poles might do if you read a pro-communist book.

Some time ago, I was reading a book on Lenin when some Polish-American came by and went on a rant about how evil the guy was. I told him it was not a pro-Lenin book, but he still shook his head and walked away.

Personally, I'd love to beat up jerks reading The Nation or Newsweek. Alas, I'm too civilized.

Anonymous said...

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form: Are poor Laredans literate enough to figure out how to order online? At least in a bookstore, the clerk can lead you to some easy-to-read titles and tell you how much it costs and give you your book and your change.

albertosaurus: One poor bastard had to increase the number of DC residents who used the public library... Later the new San Francisco central public library solved this problem with a novel approach for a library - no books...


Both American Blacks and Aboriginal Hispanics have average IQs no higher than about 80 [and, according to some rather terrifying research by Charles Murray, the figure of "80" is probably plummeting, even as we speak].

You need an IQ of about 90 to support the most basic introduction to the 3Rs [Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic], and about the best a person with an IQ of 90 could hope for would be to read something like a Richie Rich or Archie or Donald Duck comic book.

So, on average, American Blacks and Aboriginal Hispanics are about a full standard deviation below where they would need to be to read children's comic books, and probably two standard deviations below where they would need to be to read something as complicated as the King James Bible.

In other words: They don't read because they CAN'T read.

Anonymous said...

What is a good source that breaks down U.S. Spanish-speaking demographics by region and age cohort?

Wake me up when you find a good source which breaks down demographics by Nahuatl, Yucatec, Mixtec, Zapotec, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Otomi, Totonac, Mazatec...

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of Americans don't understand that our historical culture has always been unusually literate.

No kidding.

Rumor has it that Steve is a Papist, but maybe Komment Kontrol will allow me to point out that it is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of the Protestant Reformation on world literacy - it's something that we take for granted, to the point that it's almost engrained in our genes - yet you'll never hear so much as a peep about it from the folks who control the teaching of history, despite the fact that it's possibly the single most important* development in human history in maybe the last half-millenium.

BTW, the same thing is [or was] true for piano playing and harmonized singing, although Americans [the real ones, not the post-1965 ones] are getting so lazy that we don't have the devotion to music that we once had.




*At least from the secularist's point of view [or what ought to be the secularist's point of view] - but, of course, if they acknowledged that, then they'd have to give credit to the Protestant Reformation, and we can't have that, now can we?

Anonymous said...

Maybe I misremember, but I seem to recall reading on some blog like RoadtotheMiddleClass that the current functional literacy rate in the US is now lower than it was just before the start of public school system. If so, what's the point of California annually dumping 40 billion dollars into them?

corvinus said...

In other news, according to the Arizona department of health, white births in Arizona for the first 11 months of 2009 outnumbered Hispanic births for the first time since 2002.

I get the impression so far that white birth rates are much more resilient than the minority ones to hard times, possibly since whites are much more careful with money.

Anonymous said...

The whole library experience is a lot like an appointment at the DMV.

it was just a matter of time, i suppose....

Middletown Girl said...

"In other news, according to the Arizona department of health, white births in Arizona for the first 11 months of 2009 outnumbered Hispanic births for the first time since 2002."

Hmm, maybe unemployment has more whites staying home and screwing.

But, is this on a per capita basis or numbers for total populations?

Middletown Girl said...

"Has nobody heard of a library?"

Most community libraries are small and don't offer much in the way of selection.

"I don't think I've bought a book from a brick-and-mortar store in over a year, and I really don't miss it."

The hell with chain store selling mostly best-sellers and gift books. You mean you don't miss used book stores with stacks and stacks of books, many of them out-of-print? Part of the appeal is aesthetic. It's like a kind of cultural archaeology.

The internet is useful for gathering and exchanging info, but it just doesn't FEEL right. Browsing in a bookstore is one of the most underappreciated forms of recreation.

Brian Watkins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
corvinus said...

Hmm, maybe unemployment has more whites staying home and screwing.

But, is this on a per capita basis or numbers for total populations?


Total numbers.
http://www.azdhs.gov/plan/

ben tillman said...

Half Price Books is based in Texas; you'd think they'd have an outlet in Laredo.

There are no stores in the Valley. There are, however, four in San Antonio and one in Corpus.

Anonymous said...

Shutting down of Dalton has nothing to do with demographics. They are closing their store in Lily White Bartlesville in Oklahoma too.

Anonymous said...

The internet, Wikipedia, Youtube, and google have probably had a suppressive effect on book-reading, especially non-fiction "how to"-type fare. You can learn how to change out a widget via video on YouTube, DIY, or HowStuffWorks, with no need to buy a manual. You can find fairly thorough summaries of most any major work, and plenty of minor ones online.

Due to the plethora of movie reviews online, people might be liable to see less and not more movies. The reviews pretty much will give you the plot, and wikipedia will usually have a rather thorough synopsis. If you read a few long reviews of one movie, you will kind of feel as if you have already sat through the damned thing IMO.


I do not expect our new hispanic citizens to be as intellectually curious as our old white ones were, but they will probably be more probing than blacks. English departments just keep on shrinking dont they? Thats what they get for embracing cultural Marxism, telling the white kids who value the English language and Western Literature therein what awful people they are descended from. Funny how that works, insulting your intended audience and finding they turn their backs on you....

Anonymous said...

"When I lived in Spain, I was regularly physically attacked for reading in public - people would kick me and throw things at me if I read on public transportation."

This doesn't sound right. Maybe your attackers judged you by your appearance. There's a pale gamma kid. Let's beat him.

jody said...

the arizona birthrate thing, it might be because once unemployment went up to 10% in the US, TONS of mexicans went back to mexico.

looking around a couple cities i have visited in the north, i estimate a 50% reduction in illegal mexicans between 2007 and 2009. there are so many less mexicans loitering around everywhere now than there were only a few years ago, right when the amnesty seemed possible and unemployment was 5%.

and imagine that, after they left, nothing happened. society did not collapse due to a lack of five foot tall, brown fat guys. in total contradiction to what the liberals predicted.

Truth said...

""When I lived in Spain, I was regularly physically attacked for reading in public - people would kick me and throw things at me if I read on public transportation."

Well, to be perfectly transparent, Sport; you did get the same treatment from your parents and siblings when you came home from school, no?

Mr. Anon said...

"kurt9 said...

This sum up the problem that I have with many "conservatives". I believe in dynamism. Many "conservatives" actually believe in stasis, much like the liberal-left. Thus, instead of solving the problem, they actually end up contributing to it."

Imagine that! There are "conservatives" (quotes, mind you) who don't want things to change!

I've got news for you, Kurt9: if there aren't a few things that you DON'T want to change, then you aren't a conservative - with or without quotes.

PDX more than SWPLLE said...

Just walked my dog. Passed no fewer than five book stores (none of them chain), two second run movie theaters and at least three record stores.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't sound right. Maybe your attackers judged you by your appearance. There's a pale gamma kid. Let's beat him.

I'm female.

Anonymous said...

Also, dudes not believing my Spain story, you have to go outside sometimes. I'm a homeschooling mom, I have stuff to do inside. Also I lived abroad and sowed my wild oats in my youth, in the proper time.

So I know things like, Moroccan teenagers will gangrape an American coed (happened to someone I knew in Spain) but nativeborn Spaniards will just flick wadded up paper at you and hiss. This is all you need to know about how retarded an idea moving large numbers of North Africans into Europe was.

You all need to get some real world experience, not just believe what bloggers tell you. Some of it is true, some of it is not.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Laredo in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Please consider that Laredo is reverting to type. Even then, when the demographics weren't as they are now, the only "bookstore" in Laredo was a newsstand with racks of paperbacks at which I purchased A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lydon, among other books.

The library in Laredo then was a joke. It mostly existed as the source for embezzlers. I found first editions (from before WWII) on its shelves that were valuable then. New books were a rarity. (Today,of course, I couldn't say.)

There is a vast difference between Half Price Books, a book store with a poor selection at most of its locations, and, say Powell's. Powell's was a joy to shop in. Half Price is like visiting a mausoleum where only half the family is buried. Half Price Books' best years were in the 1970s and early 1980s, before it became a dumping ground for publishers' overstock.

Michael Ventura said...

Actually it isn't that Whites in Arizona had more children, it's entirely a question of Hispanics having had less births in 2009.

Here's the Number of Births to Hispanics in Arizona by year (in Thousands and with the 2009 figure normed for the Missing Month):

1998 28.8
1999 30.7
2000 33.9
2001 35.1
2002 36.1
2003 39.1
2004 40.8
2005 42.2
2006 44.9
2007 45.7
2008 42.6
2009 38.4

I think it is notable that the last two years are the only years where there was a decline in the absolute number of births to Hispanics.

One might hope that this is a trend.

But the problem is that it's hard to have a sustained reduction in births to a group with such a high fertility rate as Hispanics in the American Southwest have.

Though maybe that law against employing illegal immigrants is having a salutary effect.

Middletown Girl said...

"Just walked my dog. Passed no fewer than five book stores (none of them chain), two second run movie theaters and at least three record stores."


Where can I get one of those time machines? Or, is it prescription drugs that are making you hallucinate?

corvinus said...

Actually it isn't that Whites in Arizona had more children, it's entirely a question of Hispanics having had less births in 2009.

I think it is notable that the last two years are the only years where there was a decline in the absolute number of births to Hispanics.

One might hope that this is a trend.

But the problem is that it's hard to have a sustained reduction in births to a group with such a high fertility rate as Hispanics in the American Southwest have.

Though maybe that law against employing illegal immigrants is having a salutary effect.


Here's what I think is happening.

Whites have had to support Fedgov and the minorities with their taxes for years. Making a dollar go far has become almost an art form. If the economy goes sour, white birth rates drop relatively slightly if at all. (Iceland's and Ireland's birth rates are another example... not much of a dip, even though they're both basically bankrupt.)

Groups dependent upon government largesse for their livelihood, on the other hand, tend to have their birth rates take it in the chin when hard times come. Eastern Europeans in the 1990s after Communism collapsed are a classic example, but the same process now appears to be being repeated for blacks and Hispanics here in the USA.

Another example: in Michigan in 2008 there was a 15% increase in abortions among blacks over 2007 while abortions among whites didn't change much at all. (The 2008 abortion stats are the only ones available for Michigan at the moment.)

Middletown Girl said...

"Groups dependent upon government largesse for their livelihood, on the other hand, tend to have their birth rates take it in the chin when hard times come."

But the Obama government has expanded food stamps and welfare for the poor slobs.

Maybe the birthrates of the working poor tend to dip when times are bad but those dependent on government largesse would not be affected by an economic downturn since they be getting freebies from the government 365 times a year whether times are good or bad.

PDX not just a Puff Piece said...

"So I know things like, Moroccan teenagers will gangrape an American coed (happened to someone I knew in Spain) but nativeborn Spaniards will just flick wadded up paper at you and hiss."

True. A friend recently fended off a group of three rape inclined cultural enrichers in a Madrid pocket park. Her sturdy Nordic somatype and a rural upbringing saved the day. Bloody noses speak volumes when a lady is forced to defend her honor.

Anecdotal sure, but who studies this stuff in a rigorous fashion in painfully leftist countries like Spain?

As far as time-machine tickets go try Portland, Oregon. The city as a whole offers much more by a factor of five or ten. Really. An intact central city with a lamentably, shamefully, embarassingly, low population of the people that the good folk revere, but avoid, keeps the urban paradise alive if no longer dirt cheap.

corvinus said...

"Groups dependent upon government largesse for their livelihood, on the other hand, tend to have their birth rates take it in the chin when hard times come."

But the Obama government has expanded food stamps and welfare for the poor slobs.

Maybe the birthrates of the working poor tend to dip when times are bad but those dependent on government largesse would not be affected by an economic downturn since they be getting freebies from the government 365 times a year whether times are good or bad.


Fedgov, maybe, but what about the state and municipal governments, who are $billions in the hole and being forced to make drastic cuts in services?

kudzu bob said...

I find PDX's contention that he passed several bookstores and so on quite credible, as will anybody who's ever lived in a town dominated by a fairly selective college

But as for Middletown Girl's claim to be a female, that is laughable.

Topiary Utopia said...

I have read books in public across multiple Spanish cities, and I have never been attacked for that.

I suspect my majestic air of stern virility discombobulated the bibliophobic hoodlums.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note here to stand with my people here who have been waxing orgasmicaly about the experience of walking among the stacks: There's almost nothing in my experience like it. One of the cheif pleasures of my existence is walking among the stacks in large libraries (most recently, and surprisingly, in Valdosta Georgia [though I would have preffered to find less liberal fare - but even so...]) Used book stores are okay too but it's been so long since I've had the time to wlk through one (I always find them on driveabouts when there are more pressing matters to explore)... that I have to fall back on university libraries for judgement. Calling up a book is as useless as ordering it online. Your mind and persopnality doesn't expand beyond all reasonable proportions when you "call up" a book from some grandiose National Library.I do however "flow" (in the happiness sense) when walking among the stacks,,, making love with all of eternity.

As for choosing who be with us and who be against, I say that we use npo criteria but establishing a "race of the intellectually curious and passiopnate" and moving on from there to back up each other and our families. I may be of Jewish descent but if Svigee would give up on hating me for my pedigree and would join up with me qas a comrade I would be pleased to be alied with a fellow open-minded intellectual curioso. We lusters of knowledge and of life ought to band together and conquer the world for the pleasure of us all.

Coincidentally, no one need suffer in this conquest. The intellectually incurious and already-sated can be kept quite happy with a small daily dose of pizza and porn. Everyone can win, but for the love of God, the infatuation with all things Capitalistic must be crushed. The money treadmill is the greatest destroyer of the Dreams of Man that the modern era has ever known. Forcing us to keep up with each other lest we be demoted to sexless and companionless and familyless Betadom has done none of us any good. Kill the guys who hold (and keep moving) the carrots and we'll be able to live far better and fuller lives. For the love of God destroy the lie of the monetary dream and work with each other to explore the fruits of intellectual and experiental existence. We're a tribe opf empathic colleagues and friends, let us friggin act that way.

Selah.

mnuez