If you live in Washington and read the Washington Post, you might notice something different with the Sunday edition. It’s Book World (a book review section of the newspaper) is moving and being integrated into the newspaper instead of having its own section. The Post launched Book World in the 1960s, folded it as a separate section in 1973 and was reviewed in the early 1980s.   Instead book reviews will be found in the outlook section of the newspaper on Sundays, and in the style and arts section during the week.  As well, Style will have a daily Book World review and touch upon literature and publishing topics. The section will also house interviews and profiles of authors more prominently than in the past. So ends another chapter in book review history.

The Washington Post has decided to shutter the print version of Book World, its Sunday stand-alone book review section, and shift reviews to space inside two other sections of the paper.

Book World, aside from the book review section in the NY Times was one of the last standing book review only sections found in a newspaper across the country. Why has the newspaper decided to make this change? In a nutshell, advertising decreased making the section no longer practical:

“The advertising in Book World didn’t justify the amount of space that we dedicated each week to books coverage,” [stated] Marcus Brauchli, executive editor of The Post, in a phone interview.

The last “issue” of Book World is scheduled to be between February 15-22. It will continue to be published online as an independent section. When rumors arose that the section would be turning it’s last page, many signed a petition in hopes of bringing back the section. The Book World section, as many suggested, honored books and highlighted their significance simply by having a section to itself. Although the attempts to keep Book World alive failed, many were happy that section would at the very least be available on the internet.

Yet there are some who are saying that like other media that gets support, so should book review sections in newspapers:

Douglas Brinkley, the historian, suggested that the book industry and book reviews deserved some kind of public bailout. “I think that just like public television — I think book review sections almost need to get subsidized to keep the intellectual life in America alive,” Mr. Brinkley said. “So if we can do that for radio, and we could do it for television, why can’t we do it for the book industry, which is terribly suffering right now?”

Despite the state of the economy, should newspapers be subsidized in order to make sure sections are kept in print? As he states, the book industry is suffering dramatically right now, and this change could have even more negative implications. If there is no book review section to inform the public about must-reads and new books, how are they to know about them (especially if they do not have access to the internet)?

Luckily, the NY Times still has it’s own section for book reviews. This change by the Washington Post makes the NY Times Sunday section the largest:

publishing at least 24 and as many as 30 or more pages a week with a staff of 15 and contributions from dozens of freelance reviewers. In addition to being included in the Sunday paper, the Book Review is sold as a separate section to 23,500 subscribers. An additional 4,200 copies of the section are sold in bookstores across the country.

Unless you live in NY, it may be harder to find book reviews in your favorite newspaper (or any newspaper).

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