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Saturday, July 26, 2008

The demise of the newspaper book review?

There has been a lot of comment lately on both GalleyCat at mediabistro.com and on Bookman Beattie's blog about the possible impending demise of the newspaper book review. The latest, from Graham Beattie, is that there is a rumour flying around that three of New Zealand's major newspapers -- the Dominion Post of Wellington, the Christchurch Press, and the Waikato Times -- will be shifting their book review pages to a single supplement with "an international flavour", composed in Auckland.
He asks, "What can we do to express our anger and disappointment?" As of the latest count, he has had fifteen replies, all very interesting.

My own instant reaction was a very suspicious: "International flavour"? What the devil does that mean? This is echoed by one commenter, who hopes that this won't involve recycled overseas reviews of overseas publications.
Others nod wisely, saying, So that is why so many editors and subbies have been fired lately. (I didn't know that!)
Sue Green, the Dom's weekend magazine editor, assures everyone that the supplement won't necessarily replace the local review pages, as that will be up to the individual newspapers -- welcome news indeed.
However, what I really like is the fellow who prophesied that the printed review pages will be largely replaced by internet sites like Beattie's, where chosen books are reviewed at leisure.

As a reviewer myself, I have thoughts of my own on that. I was going to demonstrate my credentials by giving a link to my review of John Boyne's Mutiny on the Bounty, which was published prominently and grandly in today's Dominion Post, but when I went to the newspaper's website the review wasn't there! Do they (the Dom and other NZ newspapers) ever put book reviews onto the internet? I don't know, because I have never looked before. But there are none in the stuff.co.nz archives, so I strongly suspect they do not. This makes blogs like Beattie's all the more valuable. Another thing -- I don't believe that in over twenty years of newspaper book reviewing, anyone has ever stepped up to me, and said, "Hey, I read your review of such-and-such" -- not even offended authors. Yet, I've had a lot of comments on what I have penned on this site, young as this site may be. Another plus for internet reviewing.

So maybe the slow demise of the newspaper book review is not all bad news.

And if anyone asks me (and the Dom allows it), I'll post that review on this blog.

1 comment:

Caron Dann said...

In Australia, too, book review sections are declining, particularly in the newspapers. The Sunday Herald Sun in Melbourne doesn't even have a general books section, though I manage to get in a monthly travel book review page. The Sunday Age has relegated book reviews to a paltry one page (4 reviews) in its lifestyle magazine. What do you think are the best online review sites, particularly for non-fiction?
Regarding reprint rights, you shouldn't have any trouble about posting your review on line. If NZ is the same as Australia, the rules are that if you are paid as a freelancer or contributor (that is, not a salaried or waged staff member or casual shift worker), then the publication only has first publishing rights. You retain copyright and once it has been published, the story is yours to do with whatever you like.