The Future of the Book Review

AHA Session 175
Sunday, January 4, 2015: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Murray Hill Suite A (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
David A. Bell, Princeton University
Academic Journals
Sarah Covington, Queens College and Graduate Center, City University of New York
Public Intellectuals
Michael Kazin, Georgetown University
Timothy Michael Law, University of St. Andrews
National Magazines
John Palattella, The Nation
Book Publishing
Brigitta van Rheinberg, Princeton University Press

Session Abstract

What is the future of book reviewing? The field today is very much in flux, both inside and outside academia. On the one hand, book reviewing has declined steeply in traditional general interest paper media, as illustrated by the fact that only one American newspaper (The New York Times) still has a stand-alone weekly book review section. Traditional academic journals, while continuing to publish book reviews as prolifically as ever, face many well-known challenges and pressures. On the other hand, the explosion of electronic media has opened new frontiers for book reviewing, both inside and outside of academia. For instance, these new media make it easier to publish forums in which several reviewers comment on a book, the author responds, and then, in many cases, the discussion continues online drawing in additional participants. “Customer reviews” on have emerged as a new form of book evaluation, and social media have changed the ways both books and book reviews are promoted and circulate. Yet there are also concerns that internet publishing is not conducive, either culturally or financially, to complex, measured, lengthy discussions of books (as one panel participant noted in 2010, “nothing like the New York Review of Books or the London Review of Books has originated on the web”).    The roundtable will explore the future of the book review by bringing together participants from different institutional perspectives. There will be an editor from a university press, a literary editor from a national magazine, a book review editor from a paper academic journal, the founder of an electronic book review, and a prominent public intellectual who edits a venerable small magazine. The last three participants, and the chair, are also professional academic historians. Each participant will open with 10-12 minutes of remarks, and then the floor will be thrown open for general discussion. In their remarks, each participant will concentrate on how, in their own experience, the world of book reviewing has been changing, and how they see it continuing to change.

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