Letters to the Editor

Steven Munari


To the Editor:
You've Got Mail (reviewed in the Dec. 16 issue of The Riverfront Times), the new romantic comedy with Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly, the owner of an independent children's bookstore, and Tom Hanks, whose character's superstore is located around the corner from Kelly's shop on New York City's Upper West Side, touches on the larger (and most pressing) issue facing bookselling today: the loss of independents caused by the Wal-Martization of yet another industry.

While many people have heard the expression "bookstore wars," few have a clue to the fact that it's more than just the big fish eating the little fish, to use a food-chain image. As publishers base their print runs on the orders of a couple of chains, the power to decide what gets published and in what quantity gets concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer. When these few buyers for the chains place initial mega-orders for what are sure to be bestsellers (Tom Clancy, Danielle Steel, et al.), fewer publisher dollars go into the promotion and production of works by first-time and midlist authors. This is not to say that there's anything inherently bad about bestselling authors; after all, what makes them bestselling in the first place is that many people buy their books! But the publishing industry by its nature is, in large part, responsible for the dissemination of knowledge via many voices and points of view, and when this is reduced, we all suffer.

The movie doesn't address the issue of "unfair and illegal business practices," about which 26 independent bookstores across the nation have filed suit against the two largest chains, alleging "secret and illegal deals" with publishers, but this may be outside the purview of a movie that deals with these questions not to offer answers but to promote the plot.

Who knows? Maybe even such a cursory look at this topic will result in some change in the public's consciousness.

Melissa Elizabeth Dooley


To the Editor:
The feigned indignation by the politicians and the media over the president's sexual behavior is wasted, for the most part, on the public because we know what goes on between consenting adults behind closed doors. This is not to say, however, that we approve of everything. All one has to do is turn on the "boob tube" and get a bird's-eye view of every kind of sexual behavior imaginable. America is so obsessed with sex that it borders on fanaticism. It's as though the floodgates were opened and we've become inundated by sex. So what's the big deal about the president's behavior? Since he is the leader of the country, shouldn't he be called "chief hedonist"? It seemed of little importance to those politicians that they have made America the laughingstock of the world. Sensing the possibility of gaining some political leverage from the situation, they pounced on the president with the ferocity of a bunch of sharks in a feeding frenzy. Thus, blinded by partisanship, they willingly sacrificed the dignity of America on the altar of political expediency and made of America a joke.

Warren B. Sentchaas

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