The Book Business: An Industry of Whiners
No industry in the world is so completely peopled with whiners:
* Book publishers whine because they are forced to eat 35% of the products they send out in the form of hugely expensive returns.
* Authors whine because publishers don’t promote their books.
* Book publishers and authors whine because newspapers do not review their books.
*Newspapers whine because book publishers are putting their advertising dollars elsewhere, so, in retaliation, they drastically cut the number of reviews they carry.
*Book critics whine because with fewer and fewer venues for their work, they are deprived of places to show off how much smarter they are than the authors whose books they review.
* Readers whine because with 200,000 new titles a year and so few reviews, they have no way of hearing about new titles or acquiring information on which titles are worth their money and time.
The problem is complicated by book critics who—with the exception of bloggers—are the most long-winded, undisciplined writers on the planet.
The Movie Review Model
Last Friday, the Weekend section of the Inquirer had a page of 31 capsule reviews of films being shown around town—movies that had received full-dress reviews in previous weeks. In addition, five new films were reviewed at length by Carrie Rickey and Steven Rea, the paper’s excellent critics.
I wanted to see a good movie—one that rated three or four stars. In under a minute, I homed in on the following:
The Hoax ***1/2 Richard Gere stars in this smart, witty tale based on a stranger-than-fiction yarn that really, truly occurred: Clifford Irving’s legendary 1971 scam in which he convinced a publisher to pay him almost $1 million for the exclusive, authorized biography of billionaire recluse Howard Hughes. 1 hr. 56 R (profanity, adult themes)—S.R.
Steven Rea had boiled down his full-length review to just 55 words, telling me everything I needed to know to make a buying decision. The $9 admission and 2-1/2 hours of my time were well-spent.