I commented previously on the decline of newspaper book reviews, and even in the short month and a half since then much has happened, as chronicled in the National Book Critics Circle Campaign to Save Book Reviewing. Note particularly Michael Connelly’s perspicacious post.
Now the New York Times weighs in. They’re hardly a disinterested party, given that they have one of the strongest, if not the strongest, newspaper book reviews in the country, but the article covers the debate: do book reviews matter in the age of blogs, and if so how much? The debate is occurring chiefly among bloggers—or the public part is, anyway. I like Maud Newton’s assessment:
“I find it kind of naïve and misguided to be a triumphalist blogger,” Ms. Newton said. “But I also find it kind of silly when people in the print media bash blogs as a general category, because I think the people are doing very, very different things.”
I agree, and I do not like to think of myself as a “triumphalist blogger.” But I cannot perceive what force could stem the decline of newspaper reviews, and enlightened self-interest seems unlikely to suddenly ascend in newspapers, and so view the rise of blogs as more or less inevitable, whether it is a net gain or loss. In an ideal world both would coexist, complementing each other, but that works only if newspapers continue to provide real coverage.