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May 30, 2008


Patrick Balester

Perhaps we could start a letter writing campaign to the major magazines and newspapers, and forward the results of the poll to them?

Since Random House paid for the poll, I'm sure they would encourage any action to boost the publication of more book reviews.

David J. Montgomery

Unfortunately, it would do no good whatsoever. The only thing that would possibly motivate publishers is if subscribers started canceling en masse in protest. But people only do that if the paper stops running the horoscopes.

Cosmo Vittelli

Perhaps if we all wrote letters without our pants on?

Of course, I'm not sure how to get across to the publications that said letters were written sans pants, without stating it outright in the letter, which would be superfluous.

John McFetridge

The only thing that would motivate newspaper publishers is if book publishers started buying serious amounts of ad space.

It seems pretty clear now that movie reviews have absolutely no effect on box office. Most movies are for teenagers and they usually don't even read newspapers and yet newspapers still run plenty of movie reviews and fluff pieces. It can only be because movie studios buy ad space in the papers.

Cameron Hughes

I keep telling people, blogs and websites are the future of book reviews. More space to write better reviews, and you reach a wider audience(More people get their news and information on the internet than in newspapers)

David Montgomery

Do movie studios buy ad space or do the exhibitors? I believe it's the latter. I don't think that publisher buying ads in newspapers would make any difference. (And I have been told as much by newspaper people.) I don't believe there is a remedy for this problem.

Blogs may be the future of book reviews, but I'm not convinced that's a good thing. Too much chaff, too little wheat. As for reaching a wider audience, that's a pipe dream. Even a moderately successful blog reaches only a fraction of the audience that a midsize daily does, much less a general interest magazine. Blog reviews do have some advantages -- I won't argue against that -- but the idea that they're somehow better than professional print reviews is sophistry.

Elaine Flinn

Sophistry. I like that word.

John McFetridge

I agree with you that blog reviews have their place but more professional print reviews would be a great thing.

All I can say is that a publisher told me the newspaper said directly to her, you don't buy ad space. I know editorial and advertising is supposed to be entirely seperate, but I write crime fiction, I see suspects everywhere ;)

For myself, I try and review books as often as I can for the Toronto Star (they don't let me review crime fiction, though, they have a columnist for that) and the newspaper certainly isn't breaking the bank on the cost of the review. I think they could afford a few more pages of reviews every week.


Well, really nothing new here. I've said for years that only legitimate reviews, preferably print reviews in major papers, and serious advertising help sell books. And since publishers don't spend money on promotion, we are indebted to reviewers for all the promotion we're going to get. Thank you, reviewers!

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David J. Montgomery is a writer and critic specializing in books and publishing. He is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has also written for USA Today, the Washington Post, and other fine publications. A former professor of History, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.

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