The Decline of the Book Review

Among the many depressing developments in the demise of the daily newspaper that has gone largely unmentioned is the downsizing of Book Review sections, as Michael Connelly notes in the Los Angeles Times.

The Chicago Tribune announced last week that it was moving its books section from Sunday to the less-read Saturday paper — an edition that becomes almost obsolete by noon, when the early Sunday edition hits the stands. At the Raleigh News & Observer, the book editor's position was recently cut. At the Dallas Morning News, the book critic quit rather than face significant space reductions. Books coverage has also been cut at the Orlando Sentinel, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and other papers.

Even at the Los Angeles Times, the fine newspaper at which I am proud to have once worked as a reporter, the attention devoted to books is changing. Gone is the stand-alone Book Review. Two weeks ago, Book Review was merged with Sunday Opinion as part of a plan to save pages and save money.

This was a concern back in 2001 as well, as Salon noted in a series about media consolidation.

And it's not the only metropolitan daily to trim its book coverage this year. The Seattle Times, the San Jose Mercury News, the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Boston Globe have all put their papers on a diet by cutting back on book reviews. Even the nation's most influential Sunday book supplement, the New York Times Book Review, killed two pages, resulting in the loss of six "In Brief" write-ups and one full-page review.

This is unfortunate as book reviews allow for a nuanced exploration off ideas, which, simply due to the format of a daily, is not often seen in the rest of the newspaper. Moreover, it helps writers and books that would have otherwise gone unnoticed to be heard. And of course, the book publishing industry is also facing uncertainty in light of new technology.