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To the editors:

Your front-page "Book Wars" article was disappointing [July 16]. No sign that its writer, Mel Miles, has any particular familiarity with, or interest in, books. The article read like a standard piece of everyday journalism, such as we've already seen on the subject in the daily papers. Here's a novel idea for an "alternative" paper: look into the bookstore scene from the vantage point of someone who cares about books, as opposed to seeing it as simply another area of business and marketing.

If your article had been written from such a viewpoint, its author just might have thought to include Chicago's underground (literally) treasure, the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, which has about 100,000 titles (including many that I'd guarantee that Kroch's, Waterstone's, Crown, Borders, and the rest don't carry) in its labyrinthine Hyde Park basement space, and its sister 57th Street Books, which stocks some 60,000 titles, a few blocks away. Or he might have also considered used-book stores, of which Chicago has quite a few, and several that are quite good. But then none of these stores are players in some battle of corporate giants (K mart's Waldenbooks vs. Dayton-Hudson's B. Dalton, etc.), so obviously they aren't news in the standard journalistic view which Mr. Miles exemplifies in his pedestrian fashion.

But then no doubt I was wrong to expect anything else from the Reader, which despite its name consistently slights books and their readers. You give a lot of attention to film, theater, and recently to art and performances, as well as the music scene. You have regular sections devoted to these, regular reviewers, etc.--great! But why don't you do anything similar for books? Your reviews are usually quite good and interesting when you run them, but they're extremely sporadic and printed in rather small type--obviously stepchildren, thrown in when needed as filler. Yet all these big bookstore executives are saying (and these are big chains and corporate appendages, whose pronouncements are obviously worth millions of times more than anything I might say)--they are telling us that Chicago is "a great book city," with "a huge book-reading public." Great! You wouldn't know it from the treatment given books in the Reader, of course (or in any of our sad-ass papers and periodicals). . . .

So why doesn't the Reader straighten up and give decent coverage to books?

Of course I know better than to expect an answer. I know the Reader, a small economic power in its own right, never deigns to reply to the comments, complaints, or questions of its readers.

Joseph Thompson

N. Greenview

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