Thursday, December 10, 2009

E&P and Kirkus bite the dust

This just in from New York:

Two longtime and influential publications in my line of work, newspapering and book writing, are folding. The demise of Editor & Publisher and Kirkus Reviews is going to leave enormous holes in the daily lives of word workers everywhere.

For decades Editor & Publisher was the most important trade magazine in the newspaper field. It reported on industry news and in its heyday contained pages and pages of help wanted (and jobs wanted) ads.

Now it is dying, killed by the Internet and by lack of industry advertising -- newspapers are on their knees and no longer able to afford E&P ads.

Kirkus never had much advertising and, because its subscriptions cost hundreds of dollars, never had a big circulation (about 2,000 copies every two weeks). Still, it was invariably the first out of the blocks with advance reviews of books to be published two or three months in the future. Booksellers and librarians relied on it to help make purchasing decisions, and newspaper book review editors consulted it before sending out books for review in their own bailiwicks.

So did authors eager to find out how their newest offerings might fare with critics. They were rarely subscribers, but they waited for their editors and agents to give them the good or bad news. A starred review from Kirkus almost always ensured widespread purchasing of their books by libraries as well as picking for newspaper reviews. Favorable quotes from Kirkus often ended up on the dust jackets of new books.

Kirkus was that authoritative.

I know that the Internet will pick up much if not most of the slack, and is already doing so. But so far no Web source has the kind of clout those two magazines had.

For us old print fogies, the Earth has shifted on its axis.


  1. "killed by the Internet and by lack of industry advertising"?

    No, killed by MBAs who are too short-sighted to understand the need for and value of any product or service from the customer's point of view. Lack of imagination on the part of corporate executives kills more products than do any forces external to the company that produces them.

  2. Both journals were invaluable at various points in my work life. Kirkus was, indeed, the authoritave source when I was buying adult books for a suburban public libary. And E&P was a must read when I was at the Sun-Times library.

    How long before Publishers Weekly in the print form disappears? They already have a strong web presence, daily alerts etc.

    I remember sitting at my reference desk with PW and Kirkus and selecting books.... Excuse me while I go solidify in the sandstone with the rest of the fossils, to be dug up by a future generation.

  3. I'll miss Kirkus a lot.

    I think Dick has it right. Still, there are emerging websites - comes to mind - which have the potential to fill the void left by both magazines such as Kirkus, and the increasingly absent newspaper book reviews.
    There is still quality reviewing going on out there, it is just becoming harder to find.

  4. A little bit about my sordid past as a Kirkus reviewer is at my blog:

    It's been interesting to watch some of the gravedancing going on about this. One person on Twitter wrote that blogs have replaced Kirkus anyhow. I'm hoping that a librarian or bookseller or book-review editor can explain how. Who online is doing pre-publication reviews with a consistency and rigor that's anything at the level of Kirkus, PW, Booklist, etc? To make this model work, you need a) A financial incentive for the reviewer and b) a base of reviewers who are disconnected enough from the mechanics of the publishing industry to approach a book with an open mind. Publishers, in my experience, only send books to bloggers when they feel fairly confident that their books will get a positive assessment. I don't blame the publishers for behaving that way---they only have so many copies to send. But that's not a model for useful prepublication reviewing.

  5. Henry, how did Kirkus treat your books? It had a reputation for snarkiness.

  6. Yes, Kirkus had a reputation for literary snark (I suspect because so many of its reviewers were young and chesty) but in the main it treated all but one of my six books fairly.

    "What's That Pig Outdoors?" got a starred review. "Flight of the Gin Fizz" got a mostly favorable review. "Zephyr" got a truly nasty one.

    The novels all were mainly praised, although the reviewer (I suspect it was the same one) complained each time that they were rambling.