The Book Keeper

Yesterday's used-book dealer was a far-flung librarian of Babel. Success on the Internet may make tomorrow's a desk-bound day trader.

Peter Lochner

Which does make you wonder: For all its appropriations of real-world language, can you really search for anything on a computer? Or, for that matter, can you ever actually claim that you've found a book on the Internet, if you can't see the book with your own eyes and hold it in your hands? Even while I copy ABE sales figures into the store's ledger, I will maintain that the Internet can never duplicate that experience, or capture the atmosphere of a used bookstore. Compared with the actual experience of shopping, and truly browsing, an Internet search engine is more like a card catalog system--little more than data. Amazing, exciting data, perhaps, but data nonetheless. It's not even a thing until it's in your hands and you've opened its binding and turned the first page. Only then does it properly become a book.

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