After getting a tip from a publicist at an unnamed publishing house, Editor and Publisher confirmed with the Associated Press that they have terminated their book review package, which featured reviews and book news from Ron Berthel and Bruce DaSilva. “This is a sad turn of events for book reviews. AP reviews, even small, ran far and wide, and always helped sales,” said the anonymous publicist. In a statement released Friday, the wire service’s director of media relations and public affairs, Linda Wagner, explained the move resulted from revamping its Lifestyles coverage to focus “more resources on topics like food and parenting,” though Wagner added that AP “remains as committed as ever” to covering books — via reviews, features about authors, etc. — through its Arts and Entertainment Department, as well as from coverage by its full-time publishing beat reporter, Hillel Italie.
National Book Critics Circle president John Freeman believes the move is “something of a mixed blessing, especially for freelancers,” as in theory, AP’s decision will make it harder for book editors to check the wires for a particular review, and they will have to assign it – or another book entirely – to someone else. In practice, many newspaper sections used wire reviews only, and if that resource no longer there, they might not run reviews at all, thereby contributing even further to newspapers’ belief that books coverage is increasingly irrelevant.
Then again, with such a significant hole to be filled, who’s to say that a group of dedicated arts & culture writers couldn’t band together and form an alternate wire service of thoughtful, informative reviews and commentary that could then be offered to newspapers en masse? It might just be what the book world needs.