Thursday, September 20, 2007

So why is the New York Times Best Seller List Being Revamped?

I hate it when elitism is used as a guise for crass commercialism. I am a great believer in point blank crass commercialism. Here: Go buy eBooks (any eBooks) at my store now!

I object, loudly, to being discriminated against because I am a Westerner who loves reading paperbacks. And I really hate it being placated with great sounding rationalization. Case in point: The New York Times Book Review section.

The New York Times Reviewers love to look down that their noses at us, the unwashed masses, and our taste in books. They especially despise common people like my friends and I. We don’t discuss War and Peace or pass around copies of Ethan Fromm. We are unabashed consumers of chick lit and thrillers.

We may be a little light on class (we've been known to buy books at Costco, WalMart and the grocery store!) but believe it or not, we are all capable of detailed literary analysis and critical thinking. . .but I digress.

Back to the New York Times: starting next week The New York Times Book Review will be expanded to three separate fiction lists: the vulnerable hardback list, the standard mass market paperbacks list and a brand new category--trade paper (the larger, more expensive versions).

The reason for the change?

According to Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the Book Review, it is because “now you have a list that corresponds closely to what we review in the section and what we gauge our readers are interested in.” Huh?

Aside from the fact he ends the sentence with a preposition, there is a fundamental flaw in that sentence. He seems to think that the Book Review is a bastion of intellectual light and literary taste that can only be appreciated by the sophisticated, educated, literary, rich, East Coast intellectual. People like me, common middle class (Western) readers who love books don’t count. It is now unclear to me why I am bothering with it at all; maybe it's because I like the pictures.

I ask you, is the hardback edition of the latest Nora Robert’s title somehow more cerebral than a paperback or even eBook edition?

All of those words to obfuscate the real deal: The New York Times is more than willing to lose a page of excellent literary review and criticism to create space for more ad revenue.

Ad revenue I understand – I don't know anyone who is against revenue! Not very erudite or cultured, but honest. But we do understand it. So why doesn't Sam just say so??

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