Sunday, October 10, 2010

The death of browsing

Mark Savitz describes and details us in a Slate article about his job as a used book seller; this is not, though, the work of someone who maintains a store front, nor the work of  a local library selling off their excess holdings at a bargain price. Savitz is a professional, as he describes, going through dozens of volumes at time with a scanner hooked up to a PDA advice that, in turn, searches for the book information on various Internet data bases and , in turn, gives him an idea as to how quickly he can turn a particular book, and how much he can mark it up in the process. This is not someone you want to be next to the next time you enter one of the diminishing ranks of used bookstores. The manner, as I've seen, is brusque and professional and , it seems, hoarding,after a fashion.

The change in the business model was expected among book lovers at some deep seated level, but I pretty much concur with the "elderly man"'s that Mark Savitz is an asshole. As informative as the description of his scanning equipment, use of Internet data bases, pricing schedules and work routine were, his article has the reek of a jittery self-defense; he wants us to understand him as a man in desperate times trying to squeak out a living , that he's aware that he's among the bottom feeders in the ailing book trade, that we should understand the reasons for his plight and trust he'll again return to the ranks of normal readership.

It doesn't wash, and Savitz's facile defense/apology of his practice doesn't reduce the psychic stink he and his scanner bring to the sales he shows up to. Browsing the stacks at used book stores was one of my absolute pleasures, and relishing my purchases afterwards an absolute joy. Rubbing elbows with the likes of impatient opportunists like Savitz and his like has soured the experience; that I consider nearly unforgivable.

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