By December 11, 2009 0 Comments Read More →

Weeklings: Kirkus Will Review No More

And then there were three. Prepublication book-review journals, that is. After 82 or so years of opinionated, often caustic, looks at books, Kirkus Reviews is shutting up shop. (“Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews Close,” by Richard Perez-Pena, New York Times–keep reading, the Kirkus bit is at the bottom.) I didn’t always like what they did or the way they did it, but they were nonetheless an important part of the literary ecosystem, and biodiversity just took another shot to the jaw. Editor & Publisher is probably a greater loss in the grand scheme of things, but you’ll forgive me if I mull more about Kirkus, given what I do for a living.

Ed Champion asked me for my thoughts, which you can read at length on his blog, Edward Champion’s Reluctant Habits.

Book reviews remain central to our long-term strategy. Given our mission, helping librarians decide which books to purchase, any radical change of direction would be like breaking a contract. Librarians need and use our reviews, as we’re reminded every time we go to a conference.

The best thing I read this week was a thoughtful, provocative essay from Tim Adams (“Will E-Books Spell the End of Great Writing?Guardian) that provides meaty–or, if you’re a vegetarian, multigrain and flavor-rich–food for thought. The quote below tells you what it’s about–

This prompts a couple of questions: is reading from a screen the same experience as reading from a page? And further, is writing for a digital medium the same thing as writing for print?

–but his ideas have wide-ranging application. Especially, for example, when examining the qualities of edited review journals and unedited blogs:

Any writer who has never come up against an editor, or a reader, can always feel himself a genius.

Robert McCrum laments the demise of the “heroic author” (“Why Readers Crave the Risk Factor,” The Observer). Presumably, few heroic authors write e-books on laptops.

And that adorably named Nook is getting some bad (“Not Yet the Season for a Nook,” by David Pogue, NYT) to middling (“Nook E-Reader Has Potential, but Needs Work,” by Walt Mossberg, WSJ) reviews.

And, finally, Peter Osnos reads Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue not for what it says but what it says about publishing (“Sarah Palin, the Book Business, and the American Dream,” by Peter Osnos, The Atlantic):

What interests me here are some of the lessons that the Palin book provides about publishing: speed-to-market, pricing, means of delivery, and promotion. They offer state-of-the-art insights into the book trade at its most commercial end at the start of another decade.

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

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