Even before the recession/depression began, newspapers had been paring back their books coverage for years. Now comes word that the Washington Post is abolishing its “Book World” as a separate supplement. What’s left of “Book World” will be absorbed into the Sunday Outlook and Style sections.
Every institution of the books trade, from retail to publishing to reviewing, is going to be overturned by the crisis, I suspect. The logistics of the publishing industry already make as little sense as those of the old-fangled recording industry. Both bet the house on a few sure-fire hits, with side bets on new and outsider prospects. But the sure-fire hits aren’t so sure any more, and the hits are getting smaller and smaller. My best guess — wishful thinking maybe — is that once the titans fall we’ll see a golden age of micro-publishing. Organizations like the Mises Institute are even now doing remarkable things with print-on-demand and small-run books. Reviewing won’t disappear, of course, even if print reviews do. It may be a while, though, before reviewers once again figure out how to make a living by reading books. That’s a good life, and it would be a shame to see it disappear.