Business: Rambunctious Revival of Books

Big chains put new zip into a fusty trade

Once upon a time book retailing was about as exciting as watching haircuts. Hardcover books were often sold in musty downtown stores by fussy bibliophiles, and many readers turned to paperback racks in the more informal atmosphere of supermarkets or drugstores. Today the bookstore business is in the midst of a rambunctious revival. Highly organized chains with fat financial backing are using aggressive, unsentimental sales and promotion techniques to push into all parts of the country. The chains are cutting into book-club sales and sweeping...

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