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Book Wars

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To the editors:

Having been involved in various aspects of the "book wars," right there in the trenches, I found your article on battlefield Chicago very interesting [July 16]. There are however a couple of bones to be picked.

First, perhaps Robert Haft believes that he invented the notion of discounted books, but he should really give credit where credit is due: to Len Riggio, whose discount B & N's served as the model for the Crown empire, right down to the tag line, "If you paid full price, you didn't buy it at (take your choice) Barnes & Noble (or Crown)."

While we're on the subject of reality vs. hyperbole, does Steve Riggio really think that his stores carry "as many as 200,000 titles in stock"? Get real. The figure of 100,000 at the Borders store is about on target, give or take a couple of thousand titles at any given time. Check out their stock, now go over to any of the B & N's and tell me that they have twice the selection. Two-thirds might be more like it.

Finally, what exactly does David McRedmond mean by this statement: "Demographically, Chicago is a lot like the UK"?

Is Chicago the crucible that will determine the fate of the rest of the bookselling nation? Not really. The only player to be shaken out will be the undercapitalized Kroch's. I believe the expansion into the market can be directly tied to K & B's recent decline. Like sharks smelling blood in the water, the major players could sense that this former giant was crippled and they were only too willing to put it out of its misery. It would be a shame to see Kroch's vanish from the scene, but their troubles (which weren't really discussed in the article) were almost entirely self-induced.

Mark Roth

Stamford, Connecticut

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