Several small communities in Wisconsin will soon be left without a book store.

Appleton-based Book World, which operates 45 book stores in seven states, including 20 in Wisconsin, has announced that it is liquidating its inventory and closing all of its locations.

The company has no stores in Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay or Kenosha, the state’s largest cities, but instead has focused on communities like Baraboo, Ashland and the Door County community of Sister Bay.

The announcement of the closing was made Tuesday by Mark Dupont, Book World’s senior vice president, who said in a statement that changing consumer habits led to the decision to shutter the business after 41 years.

“The national shift in the retail marketplace towards e-commerce has triggered the loss of vital mall anchor stores and a downward spiral in customer counts at Book World stores, reducing sales to a level that will no longer sustain the business,” he wrote.

A liquidation sale, operated by Yellen Partners, was scheduled to begin Thursday that will run until all inventory is sold. The stores sell not only books but puzzles, toys, games, magazines, trading cards and other merchandise.

Book World was founded in 1976 in Rhinelander and through the years expanded to become the fourth-largest book store chain in the country with stores not only in Wisconsin but Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota and Missouri.

Other notable Wisconsin locations for Book World include tourist destinations such as Hayward, Minocqua, Rice Lake and Eagle River. The company also has stores in more urban areas like Oshkosh, Mequon and Fond du Lac and maintained its flagship store in downtown Rhinelander.

“Unfortunately it’s kind of the sign of the times. We’ve all seen how our downtowns have had to change and adapt, especially in our smaller communities,” said Maggie Steffen, executive director of the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a good-sized building and its location is great. I’m sure someone will be in there, but no one likes to see something go away.”

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