There is a crisis in the world of newspapers and print publishing. American newspaper circulation numbers are down. The average number of weekday newspapers circulated in the USA dropped by 10.1% over the 90s; this loss was doubled in the following decade with a decrease of 22.2%[1]. Advertising revenue for print newspapers in the USA is also estimated to have rapidly declined since 2000 with the greatest reductions being a 17.7% decrease in 2008; and a 28.6% reduction in 2009[2].

Newspaper publishing has always been at the center of the world for Arts and Culture reviewing. But it is undergoing deep transformation. On the one hand, several important stand-alone book review sections have closed down or merged with other newspaper sections to cope with the new economic reality of print publishing. Furthermore, getting a good rating on Goodreads.com or Amazon.com is shown to significantly improve the chances that a book will appear on the NYT bestseller list leading people to question the relevance of print reviews in general (Verboord, 2011). On the other hand, although attracting the attention of print reviewers may not guarantee commercial success, it is a crucial step on the road to critical success and consecration as a high-culture and high-quality novel(ist) (van Rees, 1983). Research on the relationship between book reading patterns and the internet also suggests that readers consult sites like Goodreads or popular literary blogs continue to read traditional print reviews. The relation between print and online reviews is hence a “more-more” reading pattern rather than a zero-sum gain or competitive endeavor (Verboord, 2010; Griswold and Wright, 2004).

These differing accounts about the salience of print book reviews make clear that we do not adequately understand how the world of fiction reviewing works. Given the transformation of print publishing and the central role that the Arts and Culture sections of newspapers has traditionally played in the life of the educated public, now is a perfect time to examine this. This book will offer the first systematic and data-driven analysis of contemporary fiction reviewing in the United States.

The book is currently under advanced contract with Princeton University Press.

[1] Newspaper circulation statistics from PEW Research Journalism Project. http://www.journalism.org/media-indicators/newspaper-circulation/

[2] Ahrens, Frank. “The Accelerating Decline of Newspapers” The Washington Post Accessed July 23, 2012. Posted Oct 27, 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/26/ AR2009102603272. html