Following hot on the heels of my post yesterday, where I wondered how historians (and journalists) can get support for their best work and find an audience in today’s climate, today we receive news that the Washington Post‘s Book World will cease to exist as a separate print section.
So not that anyone’s counting, but: independent bookstores all over the country have closed. Libraries are slashing budgets. Academic presses have been hurting for quite some time, and now corporate publishing isn’t looking so hot, either. Amazon’s Kindle may or may not herald the death of printed books. The flourishing internet used-book market means that most people need never buy a book in the first place. And even if you do manage to get a publisher to sell your book, how will anyone know about it if mainstream book review sections are also being closed off?
Here’s Douglas Brinkley, in the linked article:
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?”
I’m not sure government subsidy for books and book reviews is necessarily the right answer (and besides, the government’s got its own problems right now). But things certainly do look grim, don’t they?