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Book Reviews on the Edge of Extinction

Maybe editors could be persuaded to run full book sections online, with content drawn not only from professional critics (those who haven't been laid off), but also from the best book blogs
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For all who care about books, check out the National Book Critics Circle's campaign to save book reviews.

Today's post, by Marie Arana, editor of The Washington Post Book World, has a counter-intuitive argument. She says there is an advertising market for books, and that when Book World assigned a dedicated ad rep to sell into its pages, revenue began to blossom. A modest suggestion, if I may: With print holes shrinking in newspapers, it may be that the best that book critics can hope for is some triage - no further cuts in book pages, for example. I don't think the book hole will ever grow again, not in print anyway. But space is basically free for newspapers on their web sites.

Maybe editors could be persuaded to run full book sections online, with content drawn not only from professional critics (those who haven't been laid
off), but also from the best book blogs: Jenny Davidson, Lizzie Skurnick, and Caleb Crain, Scott McLemee. Maybe, in other words, they could get some cheap - or free - high-quality content.

This suggestion does not comport well with my lefty-labor inclinations. We should all be paid for our work. But until the new revenue models come along for newspapers - until we all figure out how to make money from, say, posts on Huffington Post - the most important job of book critics is to keep people informed about books worth reading. So the fight should proceed on two fronts: newspapers should be pressured to keep their book sections in print, but they should also be pressured to expand book coverage online.

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