The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Save newspaper book reviews?

Posted on: April 25, 2007

The latest ripple going through book blogs at the moment is the NBCC’s campaign to save the book review spaces in newspapers. I’ve read about the demise of all the newspaper book reviews, except the NYTBR so seems the general consensus, accompanied with sour predictions on what this will mean for everyone who loves and profits from books.

I’m a very bad reader. I can never muster any significant sympathy for this decline. I don’t read any of the newspaper book reviews except for The Guardian. I’ve never tried the Globe & Mail’s, except for one lame mystery round-up. Literary journals I can get behind, sob over, picket at corporate towers, you name it, I would probably do it. Newspaper coverage? Not so much. The sort of reviewing they offer doesn’t interest me. Bloggers pretty much have me covered with the synopsis + concise commentary reviews, the book round-ups, even the casual mention of what’s on their bedside table. With the diversity of books covered among them all, and the wide taste of some readers, I can read their thoughts on romances, fantasies, mystery and literary fiction, all in one place.

What’s left? Author profiles and gossip. Hmm. I could live without those.

The point can be made that litbloggers point me to newspaper articles and this is true, in many cases, but why is it that I’m more willing to get it second hand than directly from the source? It’s not that I’m an unwilling free loader: bloggers have piqued my interest in a number of print periodicals, all of which I regularly post about here. They offer me something I can’t get on blogs. I got into The Guardian because the links I came across were consistently good or at least interesting, and it wasn’t simply the centre of another ruckus. (If I could I’d read the print version, because I always prefer the tangible version of anything if it’s available.)

Umm…what do I need the others for again? I know how much they mean to writers, publishers and other readers but I cannot muster much if any personal despair.


8 Responses to "Save newspaper book reviews?"

You’re posing an interesting question here. Although I suspect responses will run the gamut based on personal preference or habit, I like the idea of looking at how traditional reviewing has evolved and is currently evolving. For industry reasons (i.e. sales) I think periodical reviews still carry heavy weight – maybe I’m wrong.

I’m more like you in that I don’t pay too much attention to newspaper reviews. I like reading blogger comments on books, and I’m often several years behind on “new books” so bloggers are the only people still talking about them. (An admirable quality of online book readers is that they are not bound to the newest release) I am, however, dedicated to Book Forum reviews. I just love them, they are long and meaty and extremely well written.

I’m always sorry to hear that any part of the underrepresented book world is being further reduced. But newspaper reviews are not what I read now that I’ve found blogging. I got the Sunday Times this weekend for the books section and there wasn’t a single fiction paperback review. Pretty poor really.

verbivore the criticism featured in “Book Forum” is precisely the sort that’s rarely in newspapers. It’s more of a litjournal, and I love them, so that’s understandable. They offer what I can’t really get on blogs, generally.

I’d agree on the industry relevance of book reviews but I’m not in the industry, and don’t see myself picking up more newspapers just to save the industry.

litlove yes, I’d say fiction gets the shorter end of the stick, even in the journals that I read. Which is why I love online stuff like Boldtype and Quarterly Conversation which both, respectively, offer what I think of as more newspaper-style and journal-type of reviews.

I see your point and agree that in my own case book blogging largely serves as my source for recommendations. While I’m with litlove in that I hate to see any avenue for books decline, I rarely read any newspaper reviews save the NYTBR.

‘Bloggers pretty much have me covered ‘….that is what the paid critics fear and loathe the most. And while I don’t want anyone to lose their job, I appreciate what I get from bloggers more as well.

[…] many a blogger like Imani has pointed out,  readers have turned to blogs instead of book reviews, and so amongst some of the […]

[…] have responded by suggesting that the gap will be filled by the growing number of lit blogs. Here’s a representative version of that […]

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