Scott McLemee brings to academia an issue that has been burning in publishing. The amount of space given to book reviews is endangered in newspapers. Many papers rely on a smallish number of canned wire service reviews that don’t reflect the local community’s interests, and with change at the LA Times, shrinkage at the SF Chronicle, and disappearance from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution extinction is a possibility.
Perhaps online media will take up the slack? Letâ€™s hope so. But the destruction of the remaining â€œreviewing infrastructureâ€ at American newspapers is a bad thing for authors, for readers, for booksellers, and for publishers.
So I am addressing academic librarians and university-press folks, now, because they â€“ because you, rather â€“ seem well-situated to grasp an important point.
We have something in common: It is very easy for others to take what we do for granted. As far as most civilians are concerned, printed matter is generated by parthenogenesis, then distributed across the land like the spores of a ripe dandelion, transmitted by the wind.
We know better. We do what we can with our shrinking budgets â€“ secure in the knowledge that the work itself is worthwhile, if not always secure in much else.