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Globe Editorial

Book Fair: Warehouse of dreams

November 10, 2010

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Through the years, the delightfully utilitarian New England Mobile Book Fair has survived competition by mega-chain bookstores featuring purple chairs and chocolate muffin coffee bars. It has survived Amazon.com, with its smiling logo and clever user-specific “bullseye targeting.’’ But can the Book Fair survive a change of ownership? From a region that has loved this warehouse of perplexingly organized treasures for over 50 years, the answer must be yes.

The traditions at stake are meaningful to many families. Children’s paperbacks so inexpensive that each grandkid gets five per holiday. Architecture coffee books so large you’d need an architect to design a coffee table big enough to hold them. The Book Fair is the kind of place where customers can find the book they came in for, but will almost certainty leave with the book they’ve always wanted, but had not realized so until it beckoned from the shelf.

While not quite Fenway Park, or even Durgin-Park, the Newton-based Book Fair is nonetheless one of those quirky locales that define a region. The owners say they are looking for a buyer who won’t alter its corner-bookshop-meets-Home-Depot allure. Generations of New Englanders are hoping they find one.