Snyder said, "I get a lot of orders from convicts and prisoners. Their interests are usually what you might call escapist. They want information on Brazil, Canada or will take a whole year's subscription to the Costa Rican Tico Times. That gives me the feeling that's where they want to retire to, though I'm sure some of these people are lifers, because their orders have been coming in for years."
Some convicts pay him in postage stamps while others employ credit card numbers, some of which, not surprisingly, come up bogus.
As a news conduit for the world, Snyder is asked to field some odd queries. One letter-writer said he had been asking everywhere to find out about a British bog plant that would inhibit beavers from building dams on his property (Snyder actually found the answer and the man sent him $10 "breakfast money"). Another, a Nigerian official, wanted to know if Snyder would be interested in laundering $10 million for him. One party in Saudi Arabia wanted issues of Playboy and Penthouse, but only if Snyder would ship them in a plain envelope.
"Then, I had someone in Korea order a Korean magazine from me. I sure couldn't figure that one out," Snyder said.
His catalogues offer a number of options. Subscribers can opt for a random sampling of global papers, or target a specific region of interest, or choose specific papers. They also pick how frequently and for how long they want to receive them, and choose the type of mail delivery, all of which influences the subscription price.
Air-mailed papers usually take two to five days to arrive--Snyder receives his Sunday Egyptian Daily Gazette on Thursdays--while ground transport usually takes several weeks. A paper from central Africa may take eight weeks to arrive, but the real tortoise of the world is the Philippines. For reasons Snyder has never been able to fathom, it can take up to eight months for a paper to arrive from there.
Snyder's favorite global newspapers include the Jerusalem Post, the London Telegraph, the London Times and the Moscow News. He also has an opinion about the what the least newsworthy papers are.
"It's the Indian ones. They might be very interesting to Indians, but to me it's just page after page of nothing," he said, holding up a recent issue of the Sunday Times of India. The lead headline on the front page was, "Fertilizer Subsidy to Continue." Perhaps the most curious aspect of the thick paper is its second page, which is filled with matrimonial advertisements.
Snyder says the South African papers have been of particular interest recently, because of the changes taking place there. "There are many things you read in those papers you usually don't see in the ones here. When (Nelson) Mandela and (South African President Fredrik W.) de Klerk were in the U.S. over the Fourth of July, our papers reported President Clinton giving them a medal, but what they didn't report was that those two had a big fight, arguing and screaming at each other," he said.
He shared some other headlines that have been grabbing attention in different nations recently. In Russia, one magazine asked, "Will the Mafia Bail Out Our Economy?" Drum, a Kenyan magazine, was also in a question-asking mood: "Should Iman Have More Than One Husband?" The super-model was shown strolling with new hubbie David Bowie.
Snyder enjoys the Beijing Review for its features on new Chinese inventions, such as a magnetic foot massager and, he said, "a brassiere with herbs in it, which, along with other ailments, cured cancer and enlarged the breasts." He keeps an eye out for such items for his newsletter, to balance its more sober news and business information.
His subscribers receive thousands of papers a month--only a relative few pass through Snyder's hands; most are shipped direct from the papers to the customers--but Snyder's main interest lately is in building interest in his newsletter, which only has a few hundred subscribers so far. After a lifetime of reading newspapers, he likes the experience of editing one.
According to his wife, he only recently got a taste of the drama that can be involved in news-gathering.
"The other day at the post office he reached into the PO box just as a female postal worker was putting mail in from the other side. Their hands touched in there, and they both screamed at once," Sylvia said with a laugh.