Monday, December 08, 2008

The Future of the Newspaper Book Section

Vicki's turn on Monday.

Following the example set by Type M for Murder, the online political and social-commentary magazine Salon dot com put up their list of recommended books for gift giving, and self-treating. In their case, five books of fiction and five of non-fiction. At the introduction to the piece, the author says: The conventional wisdom in publishing holds that tough economic times are good for books, because books provide more hours of entertainment per dollar, more life-enhancing education and more grist for post-materialistic soul-searching than any other form of purchasable culture. (

I’d agree with that. So much so that I immediately went out and bought one of their recommended books for myself.

I hope everyone who dropped in to Type M over the last week enjoyed our list of loved books. Please remember, if you’re not in a position to buy a book you want to read, most libraries will purchase books at a patron’s request.

In last week’s post I said I would be telling you about a book, highly-praised, on everyone’s best-of-the-year-list, that shocked me by its failure to even attempt to achieve a bit of verisimilitude about the real-life milieu in which the story takes place. Well, I’ve decided not to go there. My goal for the next year is to be more positive (I have a very, very strong tendency to be negative). So I will start being more positive by not trashing that book.

However, it’s not easy to be positive in today’s financial world, and a couple of events do have me worried. When Scare the Light Away, my debut novel from Poisoned Pen Press came out in 2005 it got a review from the Chicago Tribune that I still use as a pull-quote on all my advertising. You can imagine how thrilled I was to even get a review from the Tribune, never mind a glowing one. It was announced today that the Tribune’s owning company has gone bankrupt.

Closer to home, I have been told that the Globe and Mail, Canada’s self-proclaimed national newspaper, is eliminating its book section. (I wrote to the book editor and the editor-in-chief to ask for clarification on this. No response as of yet.) Reading the book section of the Globe on a Saturday is a highlight of my week. Not only because I’ve been favorably reviewed in its crime section, but because I love reading the reviews. I read the Globe online every day, but I buy the paper on Saturday, largely to enjoy the book section at my leisure throughout the week. It’s thoughtful, dense and broad in the selection of books it covers. Even if I don’t choose to go out and purchase the autobiography of Paul Martin, I enjoy reading a prĂ©cis of what he has to say. The Globe book section reviews a vast array of books, many of them not destined to be the next bestseller. They have a good First Fiction reviewer, and a great Crime reviewer.

It’s hard for small Canadian publishers to get any review space in the big guy’s market (you know who I mean!) and the Globe serves an important role in Canadian publishing by providing that review space. Not that it only reviews Canadian books. It’s the broad spectrum of what it reviews that makes the paper worth buying.

I began to suspect the book reviews section was in danger over the summer when they went on ‘vacation’ for two weeks. Can you imagine the movie reviews or the sports section not printing anything for two weeks?

My source tells me that the book section won’t disappear entirely but will be incorporated into another section of the paper. Come on, we know that that means – one page, two at the most. And what are they going to review in one or two pages? The same books everyone else is reviewing, of course.

Back to being positive, here’s some super news: Our Donis Casey’s new book The Sky Took Him got a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Congratulations to Donis.


Donis Casey said...

Thanks Vicki. You can't see me, but I'm doing the Dance of Joy.

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