The demise of book reviewing

The New York Times uses the occasion of the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s eliminating the position of book review editor held by Teresa Weaver to once again cover the dichotomy between traditional newspaper coverage of books and coverage in the blogosphere. Newspaper reviews, for me, occupy a sort of middle-ground: they can never cater to niche interests the way that blogs can while they also don’t provide the sort of in-depth, well-considered review that one might find in the New York Review of Books or the New Yorker. They do, however, provide some level of volume, i.e the sheer number of books they review, and consistency, while covering a broader range of subject matter than any individual blog could.

The Times is especially fond of quoting novelist Richard Ford in the story:

Obviously, the changes at newspaper book reviews reflect the broader challenges faced by newspapers in general, as advertisement revenues decline, and readers decamp to the Internet. But some writers (and readers) question whether economics should be the only driving factor. Newspapers like The Atlanta Journal-Constitution could run book reviews “as a public service, and the fact of the matter is that they are unwilling to,” said Richard Ford, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist.

“I think the reviewing function as it is thoroughly taken up by newspapers is vital,” he continued, “in the same way that literature itself is vital.”

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