On Worlds Ending, Or Worlds Beginning

January 28th, 2009 · 4 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

”Los Angeles Times” book editor, David Ulin notes that the sky isn’t really falling:

He acknowledged that in total, the paper was running two to three fewer reviews a week. But he argued there were some advantages to having been moved into a broader section. “In a section where there are a variety of elements, there might be people who might not ordinarily look at book reviews who might now look at book reviews,” Mr. Ulin said. “One of the issues with book culture in general is it tends to be a garrison culture and identify itself as contrary to mainstream culture, and that in may ways is a self defeating premise.” He added: “You could argue that putting books into the general mix opens more people to that conversation.”

File Under: Quote of the Week

4 responses so far ↓

  • Sean Cranbury // Jan 30, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Open up the conversation. A section of any newspaper dedicated to books is essentially perceived to be an elitist rag that’s best ignored by the general public. Just one more thing not to read on a Saturday afternoon.

    For instance, there’s a new book by Tom Verducci and Joe Torre about Torre’s years with the New York Yankees. The book is published by a major house in hard cover with an enormous print run and it provides some fertile ground for debate on the nature of betrayal, team dynamics and embellishment.

    Where do we find the book review for this? In the sports section, of course. And attached to this review are a lot of passionate comments from readers and fans.

    Flip over to the cloistered book review page and you get standard reviews with little to no comments and none of the comments coming close to displaying the kind of passion that you see attached to a book that, you know, the general public might be interested in reading and debating.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 30, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Sean — You make an excellent point, both about the location of the review (though I’d suggest why have it one place when two is possible online?) and the conversation.

  • Sean Cranbury // Jan 30, 2009 at 11:10 am

    You’re totally correct. I don’t know why they don’t place the review in both places. It’s beyond me to understand that.

    I am specifically speaking of Canada’s Globe and Mail online edition which recently moved their books section to a potentially very exciting expanded online version – similar to what they are doing with the LA Times among others.

    An interesting side note that helps this conversation is… Reed Exhibitions has been openly dissed by Random House, Penguin and Harper Collins all of whom have refused to participate in Reed’s notoriously bloodless affair, Book Expo Canada. Reed attempted to create a newer, sexier version of this event during the fall festival season but nobody but S&S bought in. Needless to say, a pretty interesting scenario.

    Anyway, this story gets covered and updated every few days in the books section and nobody has any comment. None. Just a vacuum of response when you know the watercooler is practically melting with the gossip and skullduggery. Ok, fine, nobody wants to go on record. Cool, I get it.

    But when the same story with different tags appears in the general arts section you get 3 or 4 comments right away.

    It’s interesting because in a sense it’s like the entire industry is holding its breath, afraid that it might disturb the furniture or something.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jan 30, 2009 at 11:58 am

    I had a rough time with the new Globe and Mail online book thing; bad RSS link, so I need to go back and see if it was fixed.

    Your example is interesting, and makes me wonder if it’s fear of going on record, content being buried in one place, more prominent in another, or, as I suspect, your breath-holding theory.