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Month: March 2007 (Page 2 of 2)

Another Book Review Folding

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the L.A. Times will cease to publish its book review as a separate section. That would mean that the only stand-alone newspaper book reviews remaining are the NYTBR, the Washington Post Book World, The Chicago Tribune Sunday Book Review, the San Diego Union-Tribune Sunday Book Review, and the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review — I’m a bit astonished tha the Chronicle Book Review is still among that list, as I’ve been hearing rumors about plans to eliminate it from time to time for at least twenty years. (“‘You constantly have to justify your existence,’ says Oscar Villalon, who edits the book section at the San Francisco Chronicle. ‘Why? We don’t bring in ads.'”)

The problem is that book publishers are no longer advertising in the book review supplements (except for the NYTBR, which is still pulling ads, probably mainly because it has national distribution at actual points of purchase). Newspaper ads are expensive and rather ineffective, since you are paying to reach a broad readership rather than a focused demographic of people who actually buy books. Instead, publishers are using most of their money to pay for favorable placement in book stores. This system of paid store placement is just another way that the industry favors the big players and works against such traditional staples of publishing as word of mouth.

I know from my experience as a publisher that most book reviews are really recycled press releases. For years the newspapers’ book review departments and advertising departments operated much too closely together to produce a product that could attract readers on its own right — most book reviews aren’t worth reading.

Still, I’m sorry to see the book reviews go. It’s just another example of the shift from content-based publishing to the current system, which consists of filling books with words in order to sell covers, author photos, and marketing bullets. Maybe the blogosphere offers a ray of hope, a chance to replace the old book reviews and revitalize the publishing industry.

In any case, books will survive. Recently a publisher told me it wants to reissue a book I had done some 17 or 18 years ago. Did I still have the word processing files? I did — but they can no longer be read without special software. That speaks volumes (so to speak) about the world of electronic publishing. Compare that record of obsolescence within decades to a Gutenberg bible or one of the early Asian books — printed books are a perfected technology, one that still works, after hundreds and hundreds of years.

Absurd Headline of the Day

Bush Heads for Latin America to Counter Appeal of Chávez

The headline appeared in the Guardian (where they actually put the diacritic in Chávez’s name). I mean, Bush currently has a record low approval rating here in the U.S. Imagine what his approval rating is in Latin America. How many hearts is this guy going to win us with this trip?

What he really wants, I suppose, is to skip town, since the heat is on. No doubt he’ll be traveling in an airtight circle of security and just meeting a few carefully chosen leaders for minutely scripted photo ops.

If we were serious about countering the appeal of Chávez we would send Los Lobos on a good will tour, not some rich oil guy who has spent his entire career transfering the world’s wealth to his little coterie of buddies.

brazil protest

Protesting Bush’s visit in Brazil

Adjectives banned in Baltimore

What is there to say about this curious story?

We’re in Trouble

Eric and Kristen are in unfamiliar territory. They have only known one another a few weeks, but they have decided they are already deeply, madly in love.

Tha’s the way Christopher Coake’s collection of stories entitled We’re in Trouble begins. The collection has won Coake a deal of praise, and Granta seems to share this enthusiasm. It has named Coake one of the “best young U.S. novelists.”

What’s odd about this is that Coake — like six other of the young writers on the list — has never published a novel.


Granta nominates best young U.S. novelists, from the Guardian

Christopher Coates’s blog

Puerto Morelos

puerto morelosMuch of the Maya Riviera, stretching from Cancun south beyond Playa del Carmen, is a bit of a horror show, full of giant resorts and traffic jams, and crawling with loud, lobster-red gringos. Puerto Morelos (“la joya del Caribe” — the jewel of the Caribbean), however, though just 25 kilometers or so south of Cancun, still retains — for the moment — much of its flavor as a sleepy fishing village. I’ve posted a few lazy photos on my flickr site.

Hell no, she won’t go!

Eighty-eight-year-old Sally Heriot lives in this one-bedroom apartment in a retirement community in Palo Alto. To live here she paid a nonrefundable entrance fee of $180,000 in 1991, and she has paid monthly fees of $2500 to $3500 since. In addition she pays for 24-hour private aides to assist her with tasks that have become difficult for her to manage. (San Francisco Chronicle photo by Christina Koci Hernandez)

sally heriot's apartment

Administrators at the facility, however, want to move Sally into a “room” like this one (Photo by Robert Herriot, appeared in the SF Chronicle):

chronicle photo

The administration says Sally will get better care in the “assisted-living unit.” She and her son dispute that, and they have hired lawyers to fight the move.

Good luck to you, Sally Heriot!

(via the San Francisco Chronicle)

Invading Liechtenstein

On March 2 170 lost Swiss soldiers accidentally invaded neighboring Liechtenstein. But instead of claiming the principality for the Swiss empire, once they realized their mistake they simply marched back home. A spokesman for Liechtenstein said the soldiers had gone unnoticed, adding “It’s not like they stormed over here with attack helicopters or something.”

Could this be the beginning of a new Swiss imperialism intent on converting the whole world’s signage to Helvetica?

Too bad Peter Sellers isn’t around to make a movie version.


Since getting back from the Yucatan I’ve been trying to catch up on my feeds. While I was gone a lot of SEO types were posting about nofollow again. The new twist is they’re trying all sorts of plugins and gadgets to selectively pass or bar following links from their blogs for PR.

People, this is getting really old. And really stupid. Just turn the damn thing off already.

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