Book News Roundup: Special fall-of-the-bestseller-list edition

  • We told you yesterday that the New York Times seems to be removing a number of categories from its popular bestseller list feature. Starting early in February, they won't be publishing bestseller lists for graphic novels, mass market paperbacks, and certain lists for middle readers and young adults.

  • This story has developed since then.

  • Alexander Lu at Comics Beat asked the New York Times why this change was happening, and the Times responded that "the discontinued lists did not reach or resonate with many readers." Lu indicates that there may be some anti-comics sentiment inside the Times:

A source indicated to The Beat that Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, was ultimately responsible for the policy shift. A recent tweet [by Paul] about John Lewis’, Andrew Aydin’s, and Nate Powell’s March began with “hey, kids” and called the comic a “children’s book.”
  • That aforementioned tweet is hopelessly ignorant about one of the most powerful autobiographical comics ever written. And it's unbearably condescending to Representative John Lewis, who is a bona fide hero for his civil rights activism:
  • Susana Polo at Polygon makes a great case about why the bestseller list mattered for comics:
Week after week, The New York Times best seller lists revealed that the American comics industry is anything but dominated by young adult men and the superhero comics they shove into plastic bags. Last week’s lists — which could now be the last ones The New York Times ever publishes — were topped with Ghosts, a female-led young adult coming-of-age story from perennial Times best seller Raina Tegelmeier, on the paperback side, and a graphic novel adaptation of science fiction grande dame Octavia Butler’s Kindred on the hardcover side.
  • And Calvin Reid at Publishers Weekly has an overview of how the publishing industry was blindsided by this decision, including lots of reaction interviews with publishers. If you only read one piece on all this, read this one.

  • Look, the newspaper industry is in trouble. Everyone knows it. But I cannot for the life of me figure out why newspaper leadership responds to budget cuts by slashing their arts coverage. The New York Times's Bestseller List is a trusted brand, one that conveys a special status to authors and publishers. It is an asset. For them to cut back on this at the same time that newspapers are trying to emphasize their value is a pretty stupid move.

  • It's obvious that Pamela Paul has no respect for comics as a medium. (In fact, I'm willing to bet that she considers it a genre and not a medium.) If this was her decision, I have no faith in her leadership at the New York Times. I can't for the life of me understand why you'd make your book review section even more elitist and condescending than it already was; it's like she's actively trying to turn readers away from the Times's book reviews. When they inevitably slice away even more books coverage at the Times, I bet they'll blame it on declining readership. And I also bet none of the blame for that declining readership will fall where it belongs: with Pamela Paul.