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May 31, 2006

The Book Trade and the Press

Posted by Jeremy Black

The financial deals between booksellers and publishers have come in for press scrutiny. Perhaps the world of reviewing should come in for similar scrutiny, argues Jeremy Black.

On 28th May, the Sunday Times, in both an article and an editorial, attacked the major booksellers for demanding money in order to push specific titles, not least by choosing whether to display them. These charges, repeated in The Times on 29th May, are accurate, and correctly bring out the role of marketing push, rather than quality, in ensuring attention, and thus sales and reputation, a point already made on this website.

Fair enough, but what about sweetheart deals between advertising/preferential sales deals in newspapers and reviews? The choice of books to review in the newspapers and the "softball" reviews by frequently-unqualified reviewers (one Cambridge don candidly admitted to me he knew nothing about the subject but wanted the money) are all part of the same system. Maybe the reporters need to turn their attention to the world of reviewing.

Jeremy Black is Professor of History, University of Exeter. Amongst much else, he is the author of The European Question and the National Interest (Social Affairs Unit, 2006).


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This is perhaps not directly relevant, but what in the world has happened to "Publisher's Weekly", the US rag that traditionally pushed any book any way it could? I read a PW review lately that was negative. This is a true shocker. Of course the viewpoint now being pushed is unremittingly collectivist. And the book being reviewed was by David Stove. So maybe collectivists are like rats and unlike lawyers, in that there are some things they won't do to get ahead.

Posted by: Robert Speirs at June 2, 2006 07:30 PM
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