Just this morning, driving down the Drag in Austin, I saw that Intellectual Property, the one remaining general interest bookstore within walking distance of the University of Texas, is closing. Turns out their last day is March 15, and right now they're selling off their complete stock at 50% off. It's not quite an independent—it's owned by Follett's, the textbook store chain—and it's not quite the loss that the closing of Shaman Drum would be, but it's another sign of doom for the old way of selling books.
When I first moved to Austin in the mid-90s, there were at least two general interest bookshops with a scholarly bent across the street from UT. One was called Europa and I was only in it once before it went out of business, and the other was the trade book department of the University Co-op, which was, as I recall, really first rate. Somewhere along the way the the Co-op decided not to sell trade books anymore, which was a real shame, and they sold or leased half of their space to Barnes and Noble, which ran a store there for a few years before it, too, went out of business. A number of professors and other folks at UT lobbied the university to help underwrite a bookstore along the Drag, and Intellectual Property was the result of a deal between UT and Follett's.
It was a pretty good store, if not a great one. For one thing, their shelving was ambitious but idiosyncratic: they had, for example, a classical studies section and a section, clear across the store, for Greek and Roman history, so that if you were looking for, say, a translation of Livy, you had to be sure to check both places. For another thing (he said shamelessly), they never stocked any of my books, despite my asking them to, twice.
But even so, it's a shame to see it go. Perhaps the Co-op will go back into the trade book business, but I doubt it. They seem perfectly content to sell Longhorn paraphernalia, electronics, and textbooks.
An Addendum, 3/1/09: In today's Austin American-Statesman, the paper's excellent books editor, Jeff Salamon, has a comprehensive history of Intellectual Property and a very shrewd and knowledgeable take on why it failed. Check it out.