March 8 – March 15, 2007 Edition

To Shrink Book
Review Coverage

NEW YORK,NY/3/7/07–The Los Angeles Times, one of the last remaining US newspapers with a Sunday Book Review section, is doing away with its stand-alone Sunday section and combining book reviews with the Saturday opinion section, “Currents.” Editor James O’Shea confirmed the move at a March 1 event IN New York City where the LA Times announced its Book Awards nominees for 2006. The move has fueled concerns among authors, publishers and the reading public.

While the newspaper is scaling back its book coverage, O’Shea has said that the newspaper is committed to providing extensive book coverage and reviews. The new Saturday section reportedly will launch later this month or in April after the Times’ “Festival of Books.” The plan is to cut the 12-page Book Review section to eight and merge it with the eight-page opinion section, resulting in a new 16-page tabloid. There is also some talk of beefing up the use of the LA Times online presence for reviews.

The Times as yet has made no official announcement of its plans, but speculation abounds.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this month that the Times Saturday circulation is slightly less than 900,000 compared with 1.2 million Sunday readers based on ABC audits. The Chronicle pointed out that when it, too, tried to move its Book Review inside Sunday “Datebook” in 2001, it received so many protests the section was reinstated in the summer of 2006.

The recent Chronicle article by Heidi Benson pointed out that more people are reading and buying books and more bookstores are thriving in Los Angeles than ever before, thus some insiders believe that book reviews sections are disappearing “because publishing houses and chain bookstores now advertise almost exclusively international magazines or the New York Times.”

Last winter, the editor and publisher of the Times left the newspaper in protest of cutbacks ordered by parent owner, the Tribune Company. Advertising revenues are dwindling for newspapers across the country.

The cutback, some say, signifies a diminishing of the importance of our literary culture. O’Shea encouraged those concerned to support the Book Review coverage with advertising.

Only a handful of newspapers continue to run stand-alone Book Review sections including The Chronicle, Washington, Post, San Diego Union-Tribune, Chicago Tribune and New York Times.