On Saturday morning, December 4, you can join an effort to help preserve and extend the culture of books and reading. We will hold an organizational meeting at 9:30 a.m. for the Washington Independent Review of Books, an online publication scheduled to launch in late January. We will meet at the office of American Independent Writers, 1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, in our Nation’s Capital, Suite 700. Come join us!
The need for The Independent is clear.
What do the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Orlando Sentinel, San Francisco Chronicle, Raleigh News & Observer, and Cleveland Plain-Dealer have in common? Like so many other newspapers, they have shrunk their book review sections in recent years, or eliminated them entirely. Last Sunday, the Post ran a grand total of three reviews of nonfiction books. Three! Pathetic.
Indeed, as newspapers themselves shrink and disappear, the prognosis for book reviews is dire.
Yet book reviews are central to our lives – they recognize emerging writers, highlight trends, and alert the reading public to important voices about science and technology, poetry and drama, history and politics, and the texture of our lives. Online reviews are the only practical replacement for the vanishing printed book review section, yet online efforts have proved pallid, weakly executed, and lightly appreciated. It’s time for the book review to break into the digital era, for a website to rise above the considerable din of the Internet.
Enter The Independent, a project of a group of writers in the DC area and sponsored by the AIW Freedom to Write Fund, a nonprofit group of which I am president. About 50 volunteers have pitched in so far, and an organization is emerging. We are designing our site, which will include planning a variety of features that will be refreshed on a daily basis —
- Reviews of important new books, both the ones making headlines and the ones you may not have heard about yet.
- Q & A interviews with authors about their work, their lives, and the world of writing and books.
- Blogs and essays by observers of the world of books.
- Podcasts of radio interviews with authors.
- Listings of upcoming literary events.
- And much more.
So maybe this strikes you a bit like the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland films where the gang says, “Hey, we don’t need that big producer! We can put on the show ourselves!” Sure it does. That’s a good deal of the spirit that drives us. The Internet is supposed to empower ordinary folks to do extraordinary things. Why not us? Why not you?
We need book reviewers. We need people to help identify books to be reviewed, to find reviewers, and to edit our content. We really need people who don’t freeze up around computers and can help us on the technical side, and people who have great marketing ideas and the energy to make them work. Mostly, we need people who love books and want to make a difference.
I look forward to seeing you on Saturday morning. If you can’t make it, but still want to be part of this amazing project, drop me an e-mail and tell me what you can help with. Due to the magic of the Internet — gotta love those magic pipes — you don’t even have to be in the DC area to be part of the excitement.
The Washington Independent Review of Books. Coming to a computer screen near you!