One of Canada’s two national broadsheets, The Globe And Mail last year cut back on its Globe Books section and yesterday we learn they’ve let two literary editors go.
While I disagree that literary criticism is in crisis in Canada or anywhere on planet Earth for that matter (more on this in a moment) this is another example of the death by a million cuts hitting newspapers these days. It is no bad thing either. (Yes, I suspect this statement has now officially ticked off literary purists out there. Good.)
What strikes me is the statement by outgoing Globe Books editor Martin Levin:
“The literary venues are drying up, ” says Levin, “which is a problem when you consider how important they are to our cultural identity. I suppose that blogs will take over now, but they tend to appeal to people who are already in line with the blogger’s viewpoint.”
I disagree. The literary venues are far from drying up – they’ve just moved online and are working hand-in-hand with social networking. Anyone with an Internet connection can now review a book either on a blog or a site like Goodreads (10 million members) , Shelfari or LibraryThing. Not only are they reviewing on these sites, they’re putting their reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo (who are on my sh@t list because they aren’t stocking Strange Chemistry Books titles. Boo, hiss … you suck).
I’m also not buying the whole cultural identity thing either. I live in Canada. If you’re not from Canada, whenever someone from the Canadian book world invokes the term “cultural identity”, it’s actually code for “government should subsidize Canadian publishers because without subsidization we can’t compete“. (Hey look – here’s a blog post specifically about that issue.)
So if Goodreads has 10 million members and there are 2,530,000,000 search results on Google for “book blog”, it stands to reason there might still be a place for literary criticism on the pages of newspapers in Canada and abroad. Surely there must be some serious literary criticism that might elighten readers among 10 million or so members on Goodreads. Many of those members are cross posting there from a blog they’re running.
Dear failing newspapers – bloggers are your salvation! A good blogger has a built-in audience they can bring to your paper’s book page. I repeat … a good blogger has a solid social network!! in 2013, money can be made from social networking! Who knew? If The Globe Books is going bye-bye because there’s no ad revenue, it’s entirely possible new ad revenue can come in if The Globe Books can show serious numbers of people reading there each week. Bloggers can and will kick that door wide open and bring a global readership to a national or even local newspaper.
Know what I mean, jellybean? Levin is dead wrong in his assessment of book bloggers. Anyone who shares his view that those who read book blogs do so because they appeal to a particular blogger’s viewpoint hasn’t read many book blogs. The very BEST criticism with vigorous debate about books is happening via book bloggers and all the social networking tools they carry with them. A smart newspaper would, I don’t know, tap into that potential. Maybe contact some bloggers who possess serious readership and offer them a freelance gig! I suspect they’d do it in a heartbeat. And that newspaper would be exposed to all those followers of that blogger.
There you go – I just saved the book section of every struggling newspaper that’s out there. It’s a no-brainer: get book bloggers writing reviews!! They won’t let you down – they have a passion for books that knows no bounds and they have a readership many newspapers can only dream of. Also, open up the book section to works that aren’t just literary fiction, non-fiction, cook books, etc. Genre fiction is what most people read – get it reviewed. It ain’t low brow. A bajillion people read 50 Shades of Grey (which I hate but still..)
See where I am going with this? Book bloggers are the next logical step if newspaper book sections are going to survive and thrive. Editors like Levin might want to consider starting a book blog of their own. It’s not rocket science – it’s social networking. Word of mouth has always sold books – it’s just moved online.
…. or are only serious literary critics allowed to review books in the paper? You decide Globe Books and others in the same boat. There’s money to be made out there. New readers to connect with and new subscribers to your paper. Hit up the book bloggers – they won’t let you down.