by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & The Longer Ear & r & & r & Record stores have it tough. The mom and pop joints are struggling and often downsizing; the medium-sized chains have been closing down altogether; and big box retailers are losing so much revenue to Amazon and the iTunes store that they're selling Cat Power CDs at two bucks under cost just to get the hipsters to look up from their iPods and notice them. That sucks.

Of the three, though, independent dealers might actually have it best. There's still a certain cachet among the hip to avoiding Best Buy. Even if you don't collect records, it's cool to buy your CDs in close proximity to vinyl. You gotta wonder, though, how long loyalty and long plays can float the industry.

Makes sense to branch out, right?

Coeur d'Alene's august pop-slinging establishment, The Long Ear, is thinking along those lines. Though it's only been in CdA since 1985, owners Deon and Terry Borchard have been record-slinging since 1973, giving them cause to celebrate the Long Ear's 35th anniversary by beginning to offer ... children's books, among other things. A press release circulated Monday pointed out that the store has begun selling Dick and Jane alongside Souljah Boy and the Clash. It gets stranger from there. Also available are "fair trade hats," "hand-carved wooden boxes from Poland ... mirrors from Indonesia," and, of course "a grand collection of fairies, wizards & amp; dragons." Nothing at all that says rock 'n' roll.

Though the press release was relentlessly upbeat, the store heralding its success and pledging not to lose even a single one of its 15,000 music titles, this is clearly a sign of the times -- the sign reading, "Get out of albums, invest in 'jewel-toned tapestries and beaded curtains.'"

CORRECTION: We failed to give proper credit to the photo that ran with the story on Adrian McKinnon (The Inlander, 11/22/07, p. 23). The photographer's name is Eric L. Butler, of Las Vegas. We regret the omission.

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