This morning on Mobylives, I found an essay by The Nation‘s book editor, John Palattella, about how everyone in the publishing, books coverage and bookstore world has been wringing their hands since 2007 because of the kindle and the disappearance or reduction of many newspapers’ books sections and, of course, the advent of HTMLgiant. (OK maybe he doesn’t read us, yet.) But Palattella is optimistic in the essay and disagrees with the idea that reduced newspaper coverage of books is representative of larger cultural problems.
Palattella writes, “I think there’s no better time than the present to be covering books. The herd instinct is nearly extinct: newspapers inadvertently killed it when they scaled back on books coverage en masse; and the web, for all its crowds and their supposed wisdom, is a zone of unfederated cantons. The field is wide open. If you can’t take chances now, if in such a climate you can’t risk seeking an air legitimate and rare, when can you?”
Maybe this is news to readers of The Nation but, yeah, tell me something I don’t already know.
Still, I think I will miss print coverage of books. I am going to miss the days when a damning or rave review in The New York Times was something that a lot of people knew about whether or not they agreed with it. It’s like having a rich, arrogant bully on the playground that we can all love to hate together, but secretly hope she’ll invite us to her birthday party because she has the best toys. Plus it’s really fun to say Michiko Kakutani. Am I alone in this? If there’s no herd (and it seems less and less like there is) what can we point to as the mainstream? Does that even matter?