'Kirkus' killed

December 11, 2009
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Yesterday it was announced that "Kirkus Reviews" will cease publication.

It's likely that you've never heard of that publication, unless you are a librarian, a writer, or otherwise in the book business, but "Kirkus" is one of the few places where books are regularly reviewed. Here's a link to a story on its departure can be found here, in School Library Journal (thanks for the link, Hope).

Known for its bluntness (It called my first published novel "A harebrained tale not even a desperate housewife could love"--ah well), "Kirkus" was a bi-weekly must-read for retail book purchasers and librarians.

How does this impact you? Well, even avid readers may not realize it, but if a book isn't written by Stephen King or John Grisham, it is unlikely to be reviewed much at all. Early comments in "Kirkus Reviews" or "Publishers Weekly" --the two publications known for voluminous reviews -- can help create the snowball effect that causes books by unknown authors to come out of nowhere and catch fire (to mix my heat metaphors).

It will be missed.

My questions to you: How did you hear about the last few books you've read? Have reviews ever convinced you to give a book a shot?

Your thoughts?

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  • Powells.com
    Powells.com provides for free an email newsletter called "The Daily Dose" which gives reviews from both popular and little known authors across all genres. I have found some wonderful titles in the two+ years that I've been a subscriber.
  • Amazon reviews
    Amazon.com is great for individual readers. It provides reviews for the books it carries, makes digital recommendations and posts lists of recommendations. You can search by author and subject and title and whatever. With a little seasoning, you can differentiate reviews by serious readers from reviews by goofballs.
  • Jaclyn
    I hear about most of the books I read through recommendations from other people. I've found some great reads this way and have rarely been disappointed. A review might impact my choice in books, but they don't matter to me nearly as much getting feedback from someone I personally know and trust.
  • Beware of shills. . .Â¥
    I no longer trust publisher's reviews or personal reviews on Amazon. Many times, after reading readers' reviews, I'd read the book -- only to be greatly disappointed. I have come to believe that many times these reviews are written by publisher's shills, trying to increase sales.

    Publisher's reviews are, by their very nature, suspect. But, reviews presented by people who masquerade as non-afilliated readers, is certainly beyond the pale.
    • Best Source for Reviews
      I love Kirkus. I have relied on their judgement to select the fiction and non-fiction books that I read. PW will have to do but Kirkus had the strongest grasp of what would be a good read and the most informative non-fiction reviews that would refer you to a better book on the topic than the one being reviewed. I will miss Kirkus very much.
    • I will miss Kirkus
      I will miss Kirkus, too. I don't know of any good professional librarian or bookseller that relied solely on Kirkus, but when combined with Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal, (and Horn Book, VOYA, School Library Journal, and BCCB for children's and teen books) one could get a pretty good sense of a book's appropriateness for one's own collection and customer base. There is never enough money or space to buy every book published.

      Kirkus reviewers often said, in so many words, "It's flawed," and I would often say in response, "Yeah, but it sounds like it would be fun to read so I'm buying it anyway." BUT the Kirkus review helped me to think more deeply about what makes books effective or not on a level beyond fun.

      Aaggh, I have more to say on this topic but it has been a long weekend and I am beat.

      Thanks for bringing this up for discussion on your blog, Lou. By the way, I hope I always get to read your voice in the mix of arts reviewers.

      And by the way #2, what was the title of your first, "harebrained" tale?

      Hope Baugh
      Indy Theatre Habit
    • Amazon reviews
      --you can't trust them because the authors get their friends to write great reviews about their books.

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