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Jewish World Review June 21, 2002 / 11 Tamuz, 5762

Bob Greene

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Consumer Reports

Follow this investment advice, and you will be a rich man | Follow this investment advice, and you will be a rich man or woman.

It has nothing to do with telecommunications, or computer systems, or wireless networks, or any of the other technological industries that for so long we have been told are the gateways to fabulous wealth.

Those businesses are a roll of the dice at best. Some of those companies, you'd be just as well off if you took your money out of your wallet and set it on fire.

No, the industry I am leading you to is one poised for astonishing growth. I'm certain of it.

It's not glamorous; no one ever talks about it. It wouldn't seem to be a place where you should put your money and expect it to multiply.

Until you think about it.

The industry is the large-print book business.

You know -- the books that are manufactured for people who can't see so well.

They contain all of the words in the regular editions of popular books -- except the type is much bigger and much thicker and much darker.

For a long time, many people -- your correspondent was one of them -- assumed these books were for people who were visually impaired, or were so old that they could hardly find their way to the bookshelf.

But the people who thought that -- your correspondent was one of them -- were fooling themselves.

This epiphany came to me recently when I picked up a hardcover copy of a book I was interested in reading, and thought that it was flawed -- a reject in the manufacturing process.

I showed it to someone and said, "Look at this -- the presses must have run out of ink right before this copy of the book went through. The type is so light you can't read it."

The person -- who is younger than I am -- took a look at the book and said: "What are you talking about?"

"The type," I said. "It's almost invisible."

"The type is fine," the person said. "It's very easy to read."

I would have gone and gotten my reading glasses, except that I was already wearing them.

Yes, it has come to this -- for millions of us, as we traverse the peak of life (that's a nice euphemism for over the hill), books as they are published now increasingly appear as if the type is small and faint, even when we are wearing our glasses. Our instinct is to become angry at the publisher. But the publisher hasn't done anything wrong.

Which brings us to large-print books.

I obtained a copy of the same book, in the large-print edition.

It was like the sun had risen.

The type was absolutely clear and perfectly readable.

(Of course, each letter was approximately as tall as a toothpick, as fat as a thumb and as black as midnight.)

I still needed my glasses to read the book, mind you. But it was readable.

And as millions upon millions of men and women grow older day by day, and start complaining that the type in books is too light and tiny, when actually it isn't . . .

You see where I'm going with this. We don't play video games. Most of the first-run movies in theaters aren't made with us in mind. Prime-time television programming has contempt for us. We may be one of the last generations composed of people who actually like to read. For fun.

And we can't see the pages.

Invest, I tell you -- put your money in large-print books. It's as foolproof a bet as there ever was. All over this country, every minute of every day and night, people of a certain vintage are discovering that they can't read the page of a regular book. Become rich off our frailty -- use our inability to see regular type as a means to feather your own financial nest. You can't go wrong.

The really depressing thing about this is that -- after my first wave of grateful giddiness at how easy it was to read the large-print book -- something dawned on me:

We've come full circle.

We've seen this kind of big, dark print before:

In the Dick and Jane books. When we were first learning to read, in 1st and 2nd grade.

Look. See. Run, Spot.

We're back where we started. Oh, my.

When's recess?

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JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. His latest book is Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.

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