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number 2

Terror in the Aisles

By John M Haughey

The rise of the Internet has brought on one revolution that is not discussed in the business pages and tech magazines: the demise of the book-snob. As searching for hard-to-find books becomes a private, at-home task, we no longer have to squeeze past this creature in the narrow aisles of the used bookstores.

You know him. He has granny glasses, denim jacket, hair too long for his age, and a chip on his shoulder heavier than any of the Michener novels he hates. As he makes his way toward the literature shelves, he gives a wide berth to the sci-fi and romance paperbacks, afraid that even glancing at them might be mistaken for his tacit approval. Unless you see him thumb-ing through Catcher in the Rye while muttering to himself something about how "it's all making sense now,” he's usually not dangerous. But don’t ever ask for his advice

"Excuse me, I wonder if you can help me. I'm looking for a John Updike novel for my son the English major. Have you read any of these?"

"Updike? How did you get to middle age with-out reading any Updike? Lady, you and your college boy son don't deserve Updike! Why don't you just grab half a dozen James Patter-sons and take them back to your sterile little suburban castle where they belong? I'm sure they'd enjoy cuddling up next to all your Mary Higgins Clarks."

She didn't have that coming.

Working in the used and rare book world, it's easy for me to be dismissive of the customer requesting a "nice hardcover copy" of Intensity by Dean Koontz. It's entertaining to belittle the woman who is trying to complete her 1st editions collection of the works of Jackie Collins. But, here’s the thing. There are more great books in the world than anyone could possibly read in a dozen lifetimes. How could anyone be a book-snob, when everyone's reading list is necessarily incomplete? And un-like the book-snob, these people aren't using their bookshelves to proclaim their sophistica-tion or impose their misunderstood genius on the world. They just want to read a book.

John M Haughey is a manager for Harvest Book Co and lives in Philadelphia, PA

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