Jun 25, 2008, 11:13AM

Publisher Opts Out Of Times Book Review

One publishing company, repeatedly successful commercially, is tired of sending the New York Times Book Review free copies of books that are never deemed fit for review. The reason? Because the books are conservative, and according to the publisher those will never be taken seriously.

Beginning today, June 23, 2008, Encounter Books will no longer send its books to The New York Times for review. Of course, the editors at the Times are welcome to trot down to their local book emporium or visit Amazon.com to purchase our books, but we won’t be sending gratis advance copies to them any longer.

In the last month, Encounter has had two titles on the extended New York Times best-seller list: Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor by Roy Spencer, and Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad, by Andrew C. McCarthy. But that list is the only place you will find these books mentioned in the pages of The New York Times. We’ve also published other brisk-selling books that the Times has ignored—Guy Sorman’s Empire of Lies: The Truth About China in the Twenty-first Century, for example, or Philip F. Lawler’s Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture, or Bruce Thornton’s Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow Motion Suicide or Caroline Fourest’s Brother Tariq: The Doublespeak of Tariq Ramadan, to name just a few recent titles.

Once upon a time, and not that long ago, it meant something if your book was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review. A Times review imparted a vital existential certification as well as a commercial boost. Is that still the case? Less and less, I believe. The Times in general has lost influence as the paper has receded into parochial, left-liberal boosterism and politically correct reportage. And where its news and comment have become increasingly politicized, its cultural coverage has become increasingly superficial and increasingly captive of establishment, i.e., left-liberal, pieties and “lifestyle” radicalism.

Sure, a positive review in the Times still helps sell books. But it’s quite clear that books from Encounter won’t be getting those reviews, so it is pointless for us to send copies of our books to the Times—worse than pointless, because by so doing we help to perpetuate the charade that the Book Review is anything like even-handed in its treatment of conservative books. There is also this fact: the real impetus in selling books has decisively shifted away from legacy outlets like The New York Times towards the pluralistic universe of talk radio and the “blogosphere.” That is why Encounter can see its books on the Times’s bestseller list without ever making it into the paper’s review columns.

  • There's an orchard of sour grapes in Roger Kimball's article, and it bugs me that he feels the need to put quotation marks around the word blogosphere. Nonetheless, his commercial interests aside, the New York Times book review has skewed more liberal as the newspaper industry has hit the skids and is no longer as influential as it was. I scan it online on Sundays and one out of three weeks will read a review. Just 10 years ago I gave the Review a serious skim-through, in the print version.

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  • It might be useful to look at what conservative books actually have been reviewed by the Times, compared against its best-seller list. Without context, this article sounds, to quote Timothy, like "sour grapes." The Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson references are irrelevant because they are not political (unless you're one of those sexually repressed right wingers who thinks anything sexual is "liberal") and it is in the Times' best interest to keep a wide breadth of content for a diverse audience.

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  • Yeah, there's something very reactionary about this. Even though it's true that plenty of things aren't given a fair treatment by the Times, he seems to have a specifically conservative view that he thinks should be rewarded. He seems more interested in promoting his own financial benefit then a standard of journalism.

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  • Nah, I think both ASKlein and Doing Deities are missing the point. Obviously, Kimball is pissed off that a potentially lucrative source for his books--via reviews, good or bad--has been effectively shut off to him. And I agree that he sounds, at times, reactionary. But, in fact, Kimball is no mere irritated guy who hawks books: he edits The New Criterion, a highly regarded, if low circulation, monthly that exacts very high standards of journalism, whether or not you agree with the views. I do agree that Kimball's mention of best-sellers of prurient interest that are reviewed by the Times is a cheap example, but he's right that almost no books, no matter how intellectually rigorous, are reviewed in the Times these days. That didn't used to be the case. His example of Mark Steyn's excellent book is a good one. Obviously the Times can, and should, keep its own counsel about what and what it doesn't print. But the paper's management would be far more honest if it shed its myth of "objectivity" and admitted that it is a liberal newspaper (as if that's a secret). No shame in that: it's the norm in England.

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  • I don't think this point has been made, and it seems worth making because Kimball isn't clear on it: the Times newspaper and Time Book Review are separate entities, at least in terms of their decision making. It seems like he's lumping the two together, fetishizing the big bad NY Times boogeyman of conservative nightmares.

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  • Deities,they're separate departments, sure, but all Times employees ultimately answer to the same boss, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

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  • I think it's more a self-reinforcing culture than the Machiavellian manipulations of one man. Either way, the two should be kept as separate targets.

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