Friday, January 30, 2009

Death of the Independent Book Review?

This week news broke that The Washington Post’s ‘Book World’ will stop as a stand alone printed entity on 15th February. Its printed reviews will be accommodated elsewhere and it will still be available online. The news has raised much twittering in the book world and together with the dire state of US newsprint, has led many to question where they would get their literary fix and steer from.

In the Uk we are awash with reviews but are they the same and do we understand the difference?

In the US reviews are totally independent of sales. There is a conscious policy to ensure that there is clear water between editorial and business. The NY Times’s staff reviewer will not even review a book by a Times employee.

Some will say this is a far cry from the often muddy waters in the UK where editorial column inches in book reviews, not only review the book but offer it often through a ‘pseudo bookclub’ at discount. Why isn’t the word advertisement stated on the top of the page as some would argue that this is what it is, a catalogue hiding under editorial inches. There are also often special book offers under the brand name of the paper, but are picked packed and distributed by book wholesalers and others. UK newsprint has long leveraged its brands but some would say at the cost of their impartiality. However, some say that when shelf space is bought on the high Street the question of where payola starts and finishes is a debatable point.

So where do you get you review fix and are all vested interests declared?

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