Merger reflects changes in book industry Your opinion piece, "Barnes & Noble's dangerous merger bid" (Feb. 1), offers readers an inaccurate argument against the proposed transaction between Ingram Book Group and Barnes & Noble.

Ingram pursued its merger with Barnes & Noble in order to maintain a stable volume of book orders. The transaction reflects significant changes in the book industry, where the surge in online retailers, growth of nontraditional book retailers, development of internal distribution capabilities, and the increasing sales direct from publishers all are eroding the traditional book wholesaling business.

The essay's author is flat wrong when he asserts that the merger would threaten the diversity of books published. This transaction will result in making more - not fewer - titles available to book buyers. Consumers want a diverse selection of titles at their fingertips and there are more books available today at a wider variety of outlets than ever before. We intend to answer that demand.

Contrary to the author's claims, this transaction does not affect competition in the book industry. Options for booksellers continue to expand. Today there are about 70 wholesalers besides Ingram from which booksellers may choose to purchase books. And the truth is, booksellers have increasingly been moving away from Ingram and other wholesalers and buying most of their books directly from publishers.

Regarding Ingram's sharing confidential and proprietary customer information with Barnes & Noble, Ingram will continue to operate in the same manner as we have done in the past, taking our solemn responsibility and commitment to customers very seriously.

John Ingram La Vergne, Tenn. Chairman of the board Ingram Book Group

Egyptian press not "anti-Semitic" Regarding "Press in Egypt chills ties to Israel" (Feb. 3): I was slightly miffed to read your story about the state of the press in Egypt, especially its claim that this press is increasingly anti-Semitic. This is a very serious and unwarranted charge.

Before the Arab-Israeli conflict, Egyptian Jews were part of the socio-economic elite and their contributions to the cultural and economic life of Egypt were a matter of public recognition.

Anti-Semitism is an exclusively European and Western phenomenon. It should never be applied to the semitic Arabs and Muslims of the Middle East who have been at the receiving end of colonial European and, later, Israeli practices.

Although I do not condone any ethnic misrepresentations, I am also aware that the frustrations of the peace process and the continuing dehumanization of the Palestinians will continue to give rise to mutual recriminations between Arabs and Jews. The fulminations of the tabloid press in Egypt against Israeli practices in the occupied territories are no match for the sustained willful distortions of many an [American] columnist who made a career of vilifying anything Arab. When was the last time you read something nice about Egypt or the Arabs in the New Republic or the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal?

Any proper understanding of the excesses of the Egyptian or Jewish press should be made in the context of the passions that continue to mark the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process, thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose contribution to this sorry state of affairs could not be understated.

Abdelaleem El-Abyad Washington Information bureau minister Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt

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