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The view from down there from up here

June 19, 2008

From Larry King’s back yard to Staples Center, Paul Constant brings us a view of this year’s BookExpo America. Reflecting on celebrities and booksellers, the demise of Book Sense and the embarrassment of its successor, Amazon’s Kindle, the strangeness of major publishing houses and the warmth of the smaller outfits—even his thoughts on nuclear holocaust—and … oh, yeah, the perpetual demise of the publishing industry, The Stranger‘s book critic offers the kind of perspective you might well expect from an acerbic weekly alternative tabloid out of our great northland.

Er … um … did you get all that?

Good.

The publishing industry has been “dying” for decades. As with every year, there are fresh signs of imminent demise. Publishers Weekly, the industry standard magazine for reviews, recently made the shocking decision to cut freelancers’ pay by exactly half—from $50 a piece to $25—and newspapers across the country are cutting their book sections either drastically or entirely. To certain people this is a sign of the End Times, but it’s really a kind of corrective measure. The book-reviewing community had allowed itself to shrink, lazily, into a boring, self-reflexive subindustry with little value to a general-interest reader. But good reviews, well-written ones, are published on blogs and websites and in other alternative news sources now more than ever. These are places that, unlike newspaper book-review sections, actually treat book reviews like pieces of writing with value unto itself, more than just your standard buy-this/don’t-buy-this gloss. Nevertheless, people in publishing point to what’s happening in PW and major-market newspapers as yet another sign that the industry is about to disappear.

-bd

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One comment

  1. Altho Constant makes a valid point about book reviewers becoming less like writers and more like the lazy man’s Consumer Reports, I’d like to offer one more reason why publishers are cutting their pay to freelancers: because so many blogs and websites are giving it away for free. FOR FREE. As a freelancer, I live in constant fear that someone who just wants their voice to be heard will offer to write a column “just like mine” for free, thus ending my $25 a week career. We write because we write, but if we give our work away, we are telling the world that our writing has no worth.

    Just remember – Every time a writer gives their work away, an angel gets carpel tunnel syndrome.



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