My long-time friend Fred Whitehead sent me a link to an article that suggests, by its end,
that both the literary and the journalistic book review forms are dead--or at least greatly altered.Sam Eichner begins his argument in "What's Behind a Recent Rise in Books Coverage" by chronicling the increasing coverage of books in news media, but not through increased book reviews. First, he notes how major news outlets are adding to book articles: “Since the beginning of 2017, The New York Times has continued to expand its already robust book coverage. More recently, New York announced that it would triple its book coverage. In October, The Atlantic launched a Books section and a newsletter.” Eichner adds that BuzzFeed has a new online book club and Facebook group. However, all book news competes with a cacophony of online pop-up ads, video clips, and social media. Books continue to have, nonetheless, qualities like no other medium, even if readers do not have more time. He quotes the NYT book review editor Pamela Paul, who lists virtues of the book: they give historical perspectives, longer-range perspectives, and analysis of all the flotsam of news fragments. Eichner refers to these virtues as he ends his article with a rally to continue to support books: “. . . it may be more important than ever for publications to help books accomplish these goals," but his means to this end is to join the production of bits and bytes: "But the best format for them to do so is likely no longer the traditional, single-book, literary review. To break through the noise, editors must translate old-fashioned book coverage to the lingua francas of today’s impossibly paced media climate: shareable lists, essays, digestible Q&As, podcasts, scannable email newsletters, hashtags, Instagrams, even book trailers.” Oh my, brave new world. The entire article is worth a read. Whether we like it or not, the book review has morphed into a variety of book niblets.
What’s Behind a Recent Rise in Books Coverage? By Sam Eichner Columbia Journalism Review, Dec. 3, 2018.
Sam Eichner is a writer based in New York, whose work has been published in The Daily Beast, Electric Literature, and The Huffington Post. You can follow him on Twitter @seike17.