Where are the books going, gone?
Published: Saturday, May 12th, 2007
Book Review sections and book reviews themselves are fading at such newspapers as the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and San Diego Union-Tribune. The Wall Street Journal published a story about the trend, attributing it to the lack of book advertising. There have been headlines like, “The incredible vanishing book review,” “The new book-burning,” “The amazing disappearing book review section,” and “The folly of downsizing book reviews.” As you can see there’s been no lack of stories about the dwindling space being given to books — and to the disappearance of book editors. They’re being shown the door. An Editors’ Weblog says that “Across the US, newspapers have been cutting book review sections and staff,” and goes on to say that the papers are using wire services or other papers. The blog calls it a sad loss for the literary world — meaning, perhaps, that the lack of reviews is bad for authors and publishers. And authors and publishers haven’t been doing well either. Bowker, the world’s leading provider of bibliographic information, is projecting that U.S. title output in 2005 decreased by more than 18,000 to 172,000 new titles and editions. This is, Bowker says, the first decline in U.S. title output since 1999. The U.S. isn’t doing so well internationally. And the problem isn’t just fewer books published. Readership of literature, non-fiction, novels, and short stories has declined 10 percent from 1982 to 2002. That’s according to a survey done by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). And with less attention being paid to books by newspapers, the decline is likely to continue. On the other hand, the magazines and television have picked up on the books that the newspapers are turning their backs to. For example, an author, Michael R. Beschloss, recently wrote a book about the courage of our past presidents. One of his examples, President Truman, was pictured on the cover of Newsweek Magazine, and inside the magazine there was an excerpt from Beschloss’ book. Newsweek Magazine seems to think that books are newsworthy. So do the TV talk shows, and not just Oprah. Books and authors keep appearing on the Early Morning Show, the Today Show, the Late Show, etc. and even comedy shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. So why are those big newspapers ditching book reviews? Don’t they think books are newsworthy? If anything, books should be gaining a grassroots appeal because digital science has made it possible to publish a book with a small investment. Put a book in Adobe Acrobat PDF (Portable Document Format) and you can have it published by POD that’s Printing On Demand so you can print one or just a few copies. With that much ease of publication, we may have some local people becoming authors. Then this newspaper just might be able to review your book. Chelle Delaney is associate publisher of the Quay County Sun. She can be reached by calling 461-1952 or by emailing: email@example.com
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