The end of the Book World as we know it … or not
Many have bemoaned the end of the Washington Post’s stand-alone book section, and as a book publicist, my initial reaction was angst suitable for the approaching apocalypse. Bloggers, not surprisingly, reacted with rather more equanimity. Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind’s Sarah Weinman pointed out that the book section will continue to exist online (as well as split between the Outlook and Style sections in the print edition) with a large complement of editors, writers and freelancers. Terry Teachout of About Last Night said the lack of a print edition is insignificant since he reads all newspapers online anyway.
Mark Sarvas of The Elegant Variation declared that the future of book reviewing is on the web, and indeed, several book sections / book editors / former book editors maintain book blogs including Jerome Weeks (formerly of The Dallas Morning News), Frank Wilson (formerly of The Philadelphia Inquirer), The Boston Globe, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel and The Washington Post itself.
So then I came to my senses. Is this really the end of book reviewing or is it the start of something new? After all, virtually all online book reviews boast buy links for books — forget about having to remember or look up an author’s name or a book title. It’s true that listenership dropped for radio stations when the television was invented, but entertainment endured (as did radio stations, for that matter). Likewise, while the format of reviews (and books) may change, reading — and writing — will continue. Gutenberg was an innovator 500 years ago — we need to continue his tradition. Those professing sentimentality for their book pages trudging around with reviews clipped from book sections will lose out. The rest of us don’t have to miss this boat.