June 4, 2007
Book News Is No News
It seems sometimes as though the only news that books make is the news of their impending demise. In his article The New Book Burning Art Winslow draws attention to the steady dissolution of book sections in national newspapers. Coast to coast, papers such as the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the LA Times and the Dallas Morning News are making radical changes (read "substantial cutbacks") to their reporting on the book publishing industry.
Some journalists are blaming the trend on the book publishers themselves, who have redistributed advertising dollars from newspapers to in-store promotions and other publicity options. I'm sure that's a part of it--although as my friend Al notes, "It's not like newspapers don't carry sports because sports teams don't advertise, or they don't carry the weather because the Weather Channel doesn't run ads." But then again, there's a Weather Channel at all because people want to know the weather, and ESPN exists because someone somewhere anticipated a steady audience. Books, it seems, attract a more refined (read "smaller") audience, and thus niche (read "fewer") advertisers.
Of course, it's not as though you can't find people writing about books. Online stores such as Amazon have made reader reviews one of their most popular features; type "book reviews" into a search engine such as Google and you have 118 million sites to choose from. Not to mention all the bloggers effusively extolling the virtues of their favorite writers and writings.
It's not just online where people can find ways of learning about books, either. Professional journals and popular magazines alike still devote ample space to discussing what's new in print. Even People magazine has a book reviews section, for heaven's sake.
I think it's fair to suggest that part of the reason newspapers are retreating from the book review business is simple economics: fewer people are turning to newspapers for all their information, and so newspapers are having to cut their losses and rethink their business. I'm not so worried about the demise of book review sections in newspapers across the country; to be honest, I'm more worried about the impending demise of the newspapers themselves.
In other news, someone has left a camping lantern in the men's bathroom here at IVP. I have no idea why; there's probably an entire post contained in that one observation though. I welcome your speculation and/or insights.