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R.I.P. Chicago Sun-Times Books

28 June 2013

From The Reluctant Blogger:

Yesterday the Chicago Sun-Times, infamous these last few weeks for sacking its entire photography department, did the same to my old stamping ground, the Sunday Show section and its book pages. On July 14 the entertainment stories will be folded into the paper’s gaudy Splash! celeb-and-style section, and regular coverage of the literary world will end.

. . . .

As a working author, however, I don’t feel so fortunate at the loss of the Sun-Times book section. Getting a new book reviewed by competent critics anywhere is nigh unto impossible now. Crowdsourcing outlets such as Goodreads.com are all very well, but  their mini-notices often are idiosyncratic and uninformed.

Link to the rest at The Reluctant Blogger and thanks to Abel for the tip.


10 Comments to “R.I.P. Chicago Sun-Times Books”

  1. Getting a new book reviewed by competent critics ceased to be necessary when Amazon began allowing customer reviews.

    Say what you will about Ebert and those from his day, they had the power to sway public opinion and hurt sales. It’s never a good thing when a few exalted people can make or break a movie or book.

    I prefer majority rules, where everyone has a say. Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, critique.

    • @ J.A. Konrath – exactly.

      Critics are a part of the gatekeeping process, and part of the maintenance of power of the Industry.

  2. When Joe speaks I listen.
    But I’d like to add…if enough readers were reading the Sun-Times book section it would probably still exist.

    And if no one was reading the reviews, then what value did they offer writers?


    • “And if no one was reading the reviews, then what value did they offer writers?”

      The real question though is what value they offered readers. That’s whom reviews serve.

      But of course, the correct answer is “Little to none,” because if they did serve readers, readers would have found value in them and used them and read them, and as was noted, they weren’t.

      But then again: do reviews serve readers/users, or do they serve prospective readers/users? If the latter, aren’t of better value at the point of sale rather than as drive to point of sale, anyway?

    • Might be a similar situation to the LA Times and NY Times Book Review sections. Trad Pub is lowering their ad budgets, less display ads in those sections, therefore less revenue from said sections. Add to that the fact that overall newspaper revenues from ads and other sources are dropping precipitously you have a “perfect storm” for the demise of book sections. The NYTBR is still going, but the LATBR has been history for several years now.

      There’s also the across-the-board “dumbing down” of the public in general, as well, to contend with.

      • Trad Pub is lowering their ad budgets, less display ads in those sections, therefore less revenue from said sections.

        This. [nod] I’d bet the falling ad revenue has a lot more to do with the elimination of review sections than does any question of how well those sections served the readers. If the review sections weren’t paying for themselves, I doubt the beancounters at the paper would’ve given any damns at all whether every single reader they had loved them.


  3. I’m still stuck on the loss of the photography department. There was a thread on another forum arguing that this isn’t a loss.

    It’s a loss of culture, of image, of thought. A photo by Dorothea Lange is not the same as an instagram taken with a smart phone.

    A review by a professional is not quite the same as getting a 3 star review as I did today saying it’s a great book but dinged me down because where the bleep is the 3rd book in the series.

    “Those who can–do. Those who can’t–don’t.”–Jack Douglas 😉

    • At least the guy who dinged you for not having the third book done told you his real motivation for dinging you, and let everybody who reads it know the same. To me, that review is a good review for the book. Note that Amazon lets third parties vote on the helpfulness, both good and bad, of reviews, and those votes influence the influence of the review ranking on the recommendation algos. I’d downvote that guy. Helpful reviewers have a larger impact, unhelpful ones a smaller. It balances out.

      When you have a few gatekeeper reviewers, and they slam all the books from XPH because XPH had a cash bar at their last reception – or because XPH rejected HIS last query submission – the reader may not think about the fact that external factors influenced the review. There’s no way to downvote them, either, other than not to buy the paper. And apparently that’s exactly what’s happened.

  4. I’ve been reviewed by the Sun-Times back when I was traditionally published. I was grateful. I’m still grateful for all those critics reviewing my books in the past. I’m grateful to the readers who reviewed for PW, Kirkus, LJ, and Booklist. I no longer get reviews. And yes, my rviews were good. Some were very good. They made up for all the crap I was taking from my publishers.

    And I still cite them, even though I’m self-published now. I earned those reviews, and the men and women who wrote them were fair and intelligent judges. I miss them.

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