Another milepost is passed in the fall of the house of Suzberger, as a major publisher of conservative books announces it will no longer send review copies to the New York Times. Roger Kimball, the estimable head of Encounter Books, announces:
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.
"But wait," you might be thinking, "I don't recall the Times reviewing titles from Encounter Books." Precisely! By and large, they don't, at least in recent years. That's part of the calculation: why bother to send them books that they studiously ignore?
But there is more than sour grapes or a purely probability-based calculation at work here. Kimball notes:
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.
Like the little boy pointing out the emperor has no clothes, Roger Kimball is pointing out that the NYT no longer has the power to make or break books. That is what happens when an heir who never grew out of the 1960s takes over and ruins a patrimony handed him on a silver platter because it was his "turn."